“Look, here’s another one – with a yellow neck!” “Wow! This one is like a green and yellow striped football!”
The kids excitedly gathered the gourds. Our tiny little garden, only about 5’ by 10’, had produced a big pile of gourds of all different kinds.
“This one has yellow stripes, but no neck. This one has warts, this one has these little horn things, this one’s white, but like a little pumpkin, this one’s really big, this one is green and yellow, these have little curved necks….. Why are they so different?”
“It’s because of their DNA,” one of them declared knowingly to his younger brother.
“Yeah, but they are all from the same two kinds of plants. Why are they different shapes?”
“Mutations! They are mutated gourds!”
Jokes and animated discussion ensued for a while, before someone suggested (with some helpful parental prompting) that maybe the bees and flowers had something to do with it.
The bees left different pollen on the flowers and the cross pollination had created many different combinations and resulted a whole bunch of different shaped gourds, perfect decorations for our Fall Equinox party – when we celebrate the harvest life gives us. It was just a small reminder of how interconnected life is, yet the wide eyes of the children showed how wonderful it was to them as well. As decorations, the gourds showed the wider web of life to the kids whenever they saw them.
We continued to prepare for our Equinox party, with growing anticipation. Every Fall Equinox we celebrate with a ritual and a big party – the only big party our family throws all year. The Fall Equinox is a traditional time of ingathering. Traders and shepherds begin returning to their homes from their summer travels. Harvests are brought in to prepare for the coming winter. In modern times, it is a time when summer vacations are ending and school is beginning. Communities that were parted in the spring are reforming again. Stories are being shared. Old friendships are renewed, new friendships begun. It is a time for community. This will be our 17th annual party – and it’s changed quite a bit over the years as we and our friends have had kids. But through it all, the harvest theme has always shone – the harvest of plants, of stories, of so much of our lives.
The party is also a connection to so many of our Ancestors who enjoyed this time, when the fall harvest brought in neighbors and relatives both to help bring in the harvest as well as to celebrate it. Our cheers and revelry echo through the ages, back thousands of years, a celebration of the technology of agriculture, and even before that, of the seasonal nature of our foods.
In Deep Time history, the Fall Equinox (or Mabon) reminds Jon of the late Mesozoic, from around 100 million to 66 million years ago, when many of the families we farm (such as grasses and angiosperms) first evolved, as well as the insect-plant partnerships we see in flowers, and many of the emotional bonds in us mammals that make such communities possible.
The Authors: Heather and Jon Cleland Host
Starstuff, Contemplating: We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.
Heather is a parent and a scientist raising her four children to explore the world through scientific understanding and with spiritual appreciation of the Universe. She has a Master of Science degree in Physics from Michigan State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English Literature, also from the University of Michigan. She teaches physics as an adjunct instructor at Delta College, runs the Math Mania program at a local elementary school, has worked at Dow Corning as an engineer and at NASA as an intern, and she has led science outreach workshops for K-12 students through joint programs between NASA and the University of Michigan. She is a naturalistic non-theist, whose faith has been shaped by her childhood within the Episcopal Church, her adult membership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and through Buddhist meditation. She has a passion for bringing science and spirituality to everyone in a fun way, both for her own family and for the wider community of the Earth. She is a co-author with Jon Cleland-Host of Elemental Birthdays: How to Bring Science into Every Party.