The top of a White Pine hangs heavy with Cones. Courtesy photo/Rachel Lovejoy

A bountiful harvest is nature’s way of reminding us of abundance and possibility.~Author Unknown

Small wispy clouds move slowly across a pale blue sky on this late September afternoon. Not far away, a tall white pine stands, its top boughs weighed down heavily by clusters of fat pine cones, which have gone slowly from bright green to pale brown. Each scale of cones contains a small seeds that contain all the information it needs to produce another pine, given the right conditions.

The scales are effectively the “leaves” of the pine cones and form a protective sheath around each pair of seeds. Squirrels and many large birds are adept at reaching in to claim them while others find their way into the soil where it is hoped they will sprout.

The cones, like acorns on oak trees, are a harvest of sorts, one that not only ensures a supply of food for wildlife but that also promotes the growth of more trees. It’s no coincidence that pines and oaks produce their crops at about the same time as other trees and plants do and from which we get much of our own fresh foods in the form of corn, blueberries, apples, potatoes and pumpkins, to name but a few.

In ancient Gaelic times, August first marked the start of the season known as Lughnasadh, or the time of First Fruits. Centuries ago, festivals celebrating the first picking of the corn as well as other crops were held, with special meals made from the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Celebrations often involved climbing a particular hill or mountain, with everyone bringing flowers to the top to bury, a tradition that marked the end of summer. Today, toned-down celebrations are still held in parts of Ireland and Scotland, as many older folks have never lost their ingrained connection to Mother Earth and their ties to the land and the soil.

For us here in the United States, the word “harvest” conjures up images of farmers’ market bins over-spilling with huge red tomatoes, bright green ears of sweet corn, and sunflower-yellow squash. We think high-bush blueberry branches heavy with the powdery blue fruit and apple trees heavy with red, green, and yellow gems. But lacking a true connection with the earth in the form of a farm or large vegetable garden, the word can describe other aspects of the human experience that have nothing to do with picking produce and filling bins.


Late summer and early fall are a time of reaping, of drawing in, of gathering. Last night, I gazed up at a bright yellow full moon and realized that I was reaping the benefit of its beauty. As the weather cools and the days grow shorter, it’s not unusual to feel the same sense of drawing in that our ancestors felt as they drew even closely and personally to the earth’s generosity each year at this time. It’s still ingrained in us, in the same way that the old ways of the ancient Irish and Scottish are still part of the mindset there today.

Aside from all things pastoral and having to do with physical gathering and reaping, the concept of harvesting is used a metaphor in other areas of our lives. We’ve all heard the saying “You reap what you sow.” And the fact that the first settlers set a day of thanksgiving aside involved much more than just being grateful for what was on their table.

Nature also delivers gifts to us in the form of wild game and fish. And whether we can consume them or not, all plants release their own bounties of seeds intended for further propagation of their species. If we aren’t involved in scattering these seeds, then the weather and the wild creatures take it upon themselves to spread the bounty in hopes that the elements will be kind and foster more growth.

That harvesting carries the promise of possibilities is a fact not lost on those who garden either avidly or for sustenance. Gardeners and farmers plant with the hope of a large crop harvest or a bounty of flowers to grace their properties. The very act of planting seed is a gesture of pure hope and a plea to the earth as its planter looks passionately toward the possibility of a large and bountiful harvest.

So as the weather cools and the daylight shifts, the time of harvesting and reaping is upon us once again. As we gather the bounty for another year, we also gather in another way, as we come together to celebrate what has historically been a crucial time in human history. Maybe we don’t have the boisterous elaborate festivals that our ancestors had, but we somehow manage to find other reasons to gather. And Nature will never fail to remind us of such.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: