Monday, March 23, 2015

Autumn Festival

In almost every festival post I say something about how the festivals have their own independent energy and our autumn one on Saturday had completely its own feel. Whether we invite all and sundry or don’t send out any invitations and rely on friends remembering the date and getting in touch, those who are meant to be there come, sometimes creating a gathering of 40 or more, other times less than 20. This time three families of friends from Cape Town who are regular festival attendees couldn’t come for various reasons and so it was a small group of our local friend-family, with the gang of six girls who’ve grown up together through many years of festivals, in charge of the sand sculptures.

The theme for autumn is earth and harvest. When the kids were little it was all about making sand-castles decorated with shells and harvest things. We don’t have the rich colours of the Northern hemisphere autumn, the landscape is still dry and bleached after a long hot summer, but there are seed heads and dry grasses, restios and the fruits of the vegetable garden to remind us of the season. Now the children are older the castles have shifted to elaborate sand sculptures laboured over for hours, perfect sand balls, and stick and fabric light towers flanking the entrance to the circle.

I usually assemble a basket of things harvested from the farm as a symbolic thank you for the abundance of the garden. This year’s held almonds, tomatoes, a pomegranate, carrot and red onion. Last year’s autumn festival jar of strawberry jam was still sitting in the centre of the circle when I was tidying up, its contents reduced to a third of their volume, but still a healthy colour, not that anyone volunteered to taste it! And an enduring reminder of festivals past is the little almond tree, that grew from one of the almonds left there one long ago autumn festival and has managed to survive against all odds in the hot mini-desert of the sand-pit without any irrigation.

The harvest offerings the next morning, the little almond tree behind.

Our festival yesterday will be remembered for another thing. Earth Hour may be due next Saturday 28th, when we plan to switch off lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm, but yesterday we had an Eskom enforced Earth Day, the whole day without electricity (due to a fault being repaired), which meant a complete shake around of any plans I’d made for baking quiche, biscuits, roast tomato soup and so on. It also meant that we had no water pressure, so dishes kept piling up on the chopping table while we hoped against hope that the power would come on before friends arrived, so we could do the washing up. It didn’t, so we reverted to the old method of boiling a pan of rainwater, and rinsing in the trickle of water that manages to come through the tap without the pressure pump.

And it turned out it didn’t matter. With most of the guests the kids’ friends, and the only adults our family and a couple of friends who might as well be family, it didn’t matter that things were less than perfect. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t get to the computer to write our blessings and retrieve the St Francis’ prayers, or that I never did make quiche. The bread was baked in my SIL’s gas oven, was burnt and very crusty on the bottom and slightly paler than usual on top, but it tasted good. I jigged the tomato soup recipe to a stove top version, only to remember that I usually liquidise it, which would er... need electricity... and luckily located the mouli-legumes than I use for guava puree, which did the job.

Olaf the Sandman feeling very relaxed!

 So it turned out to be a very relaxed and laid back festival, doing what we could and not fretting about the rest. The girls had learned one of the St Francis prayers as a sung version a couple of years ago and so opened our circle celebration with it. We all took turns to say our thanks and blessings straight from the heart and off the cuff, sent golden healing energy to a family friend who is fighting cancer, read the vision prayer together, and then the older girls played a few songs on the treble and tenor recorders, which always sound so evocative and medieval listened to under a starry sky with the chirruping of frogs as the backing vocals.

Willow loved her first festival, having a giant game of hide and seek among the bushes and restios

We walked back to the house under bright stars to flickering candlelight and slight chaos as we tried to find plates and cutlery in the semi-darkness. More and more tea lights were lit until the room had a gorgeous glow and there was just enough food to feed us all. After 8pm when our eyes were used to the warm glow, the electricity came back on again, so that we could dismiss the lurking worry about our full freezers, leave off the overhead lights and switch on just a few side lamps and carry on with the mellow evening. And luckily my SIL had made double quantities of choccie pudding so that everyone was able to have seconds.

More Autumn festivals through the years:
In 2013 it was just us and the same gang of kids, just two years younger.
In 2010 we had some fantastic straw angels and celebrated Earth Hour for real.
In 2009 more straw angels, some great pumpkins and a gorgeous sand mandala.


  1. I have learned new things... like "sand balls". I've made sand castles on the beach with small buckets, but never "sand balls". Amazing, and lovely! Your festivals are magical and I wish I could attend one. Thanks for letting me enjoy them virtually. 8-)


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