The landscape has turned from green to the gold of harvest and ‘barbarous in beauty’ reveals glories unnoticed before, bringing forth one man’s rapturous response.
“You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with corn;
they shout for joy and sing.”
from Psalm 65
The valleys have been mantled with the corn waving gently in the breeze, the sound of the rustling heads moving across the fields like a wave. In the Psalmist’s words it is as if the fields ‘shout for joy and sing’.
Despite the farmers’ fears, we’ve heard the comforting hum of the combine harvesters working in the fields, sometimes late into the evening, to catch the dry window of opportunity before more rain is forecast. When the day is over, the corn will have gone leaving a field of stubble with scattered bales of straw, full granaries and some very contented farmers.
Traditionally harvest was a communal affair with everyone involved. Now just one combine harvester and one tractor and trailer driver complete the work largely unnoticed by the rest of us. Today, we seem to have lost that precious sense of local involvement in the harvest. But, ‘all is safely gathered in’ and for this we’re thankful. We don’t take these things for granted.
At one church I knew a local farmer provided two large open sacks of corn to decorate the church entrance for the harvest thanksgiving. A pleasant local touch from one very thankful farmer.
Orchard and Garden
In orchards and gardens everywhere the colours have been changing too. We’re now revelling in the quiet beauty of the final months of the year, ‘a season of mellow fruitfulness’. Nature comes to the close of its annual cycle with a flourish as the orchard and garden trees are touched with all the rich colours of ripening fruit. How blessed we are, and we still have more pleasure to come, culminating in the wonderful display before leaf fall.
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;Conspiring with him how to load and blessWith fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; …”
from Keats’ ‘To Autumn’.
All this rich abundance is cause to celebrate. In village churches throughout the country there will be that distinct smell of harvest festivals, as they are filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Beneath the pulpit is a display of flowers, foliage, dried grasses and seed heads. Along the side window-ledges are branches of grapevines, together with bunches of ripe fruit hanging down gracefully. In front of the lectern is a wide selection of fruit and local grown vegetables, large marrows and pumpkins, pots of jam and other home made preserves. Someone may even have arranged a display to represent the unnoticed harvest of hedgerow and woodland with a collection of crab apples, hazel nuts and blackberries. The whole atmosphere reflects thanksgiving to God for the culmination of yet another season’s mellow fruitfulness.
One Very Grateful Heart
Walking home through the recently harvested fields, one poet is overwhelmed by the beauty of nature as it reveals the ‘gleanings’ of the presence of Christ. He sees Christ in the clouds, and the distant hills; things hitherto unnoticed and the fresh discovery draws him into a rapturous response.
“Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;….
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart,……..
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.”
From ‘Hurrahing in Harvest’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins
These strange but beautiful words inspire me to look more closely for evidence of the glory of Christ in the natural world – ‘in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1 verse 17).
Long live harvest festivals! They root us back in the soil of the countryside where we belong. Rejoice with me in the joy of harvest, giving thanks to God. We wish our friends in the US a very happy Thanksgiving when it comes.