August is a threshold month. In Britain and Ireland, the first harvest was celebrated on the first and second days of the month as lughnasadh.
In Russia, women cut the first grain and enshrined it in the house through winter. In ancient Palestine, the Feast of Weeks marked the wheat harvest, when two wave loaves, made of finely ground flour and baked with leaven, were offerings as the first fruit.
Eating the first fruits of the season was observed throughout the world with reverence and ceremony. An act of eucharist, communion with the divine provider.
Long ago, as now, August was the month of fairs and festivals. Today, these are frequently arranged by Chambers of Commerce. In antiquity, the lughnasadh and other annual harvest fairs featured trade in animals, food, seeds, and preserves, arts and crafts, and sporting games. Here, too, the handing down of legal judgments was made and so were marriages. Folk came from miles around — to Tara in Ireland, to the Althing in Iceland.
The first harvest, as it intensifies into many across the next two months, offers community: sharing, mutual labor, mutually earnest and joyful application of work and creativity. In an increasingly distant way, this is still evident in suburban American back yards with the smells of roasting corn, barbecue, and laughter breezing over fences. It is evident in the weekend traffic headed off for last-chance holidays. Evident at roadside vegetable stands. Evident with the crowds at farmers’ markets.
As the garden begins to proffer its ready fruits, an indescribable connectedness and continuity occurs, a harmonious exchange of energy between gardener and garden manifested in full. FulFILLment. The rewards of our labors.