The Scythe in Time

Using the scythe as a physical metaphor can bring the experience of meditation into daily life.

We are all familiar with the Grim Reaper figure that surfaces around Halloween. It makes sense that the harvest of wheat symbolizes death in the cycle of the year. It is an ancient theme running from the Greek’s Chronos -Old Father Time, through Celtic and Viking stories and even into Christianity. The wheat seed, unless it falls and dies cannot bear fruit.

I believe that the lesson that the scythe teaches about time runs deeper than this though. It seems that on many levels life consists of creation, destruction and the change between the two. Order, Chaos and the dance they weave, and you can experience the reality of it as you mow.

Early on when one begins scything, either naturally or when pointed out by a teacher, we settle into a natural mowing rhythm with our breath. We breathe in on our back stroke, and out on the cutting stroke. The pleasant nature of this rhythm is one thing that naturally teaches us how to mow. We also pause between strokes, just as a sportsperson or snooker player pauses just before striking a ball. So we have a natural 3 part rhythm to our mowing.

In the action of the blade too, we see the 3 part cycle when we zoom in. Our in breath back stroke stands the sward and prepares the way as we gather the energy in our body. The cutting stroke releases that energy with the out breath while gathering the grass and clearing away the old revealing a prisine sward beneath. The mysterious pause between is where the scythe seems to think about moving off.

The ravages of time can sometimes be hard and cruel. We mourn the loss of better times. In our mowing, we can experience the passing of time and it’s cycle of renewal. Our thoughts are like emails lying in our inbox, weeds in our meadow waiting to be topped. If we don’t look after our meadow it will soon return to brambles.

The scythe can act for us as a kind of touchstone. Always reminding us to stay in the moment, not mourning the summer past nor too eagerly awaiting the coming spring.