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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 4, Number 1    
February 1, 2006
Happy Imbolc

Contents

  • Welcome
  • My Season: Blank Month
  • Updated: February Calendar
  • Living in Season: Welcoming Spring
  • What I'm Reading: Chasing Spring
  • Auspicious Links: Year of the Dog & Song to Brigid
  • Signs of Spring
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome
Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it. 

If a friend send you this newsletter, welcome! You can subscribe for free at my website: www.schooloftheseasons.com or by sending an email to:
livinginseason-subscribe@schooloftheseasons.com
We never rent, sell or give away subscriber information.

My Season: Blank Month
You might have noticed that you haven't received a newsletter during the past month. That is partly because January is the cruelest month for bookkeepers — although April is still the cruelest month for accountants and T.S. Eliot. So I've been busy at my part-time position as the Finance Manager for Richard Hugo House, a center for writers in Seattle.

But I also consider January the blank month (it was a fairly late addition to the Roman calendar — the year used to start in March), an auspicious time between the end of the old year and the start of the new year when I can dream about all the things I hope to accomplish without making any commitments. 






ARCHIVES OF PAST NEWSLETTERS


I captured this sense of the end of the year when I made myself a circular calendar over a year ago. I've long advocated using the seasons for long-range planning (or just for setting study goals or pinning down large tasks, like spring cleaning). But because I like to do so many different things at the same time (School of the Seasons, writing, teaching and coaching writers), I found that I couldn't just allocate one activity to each season. So I decided to choose a focus for each month so I would know how to prioritize my time. There's a small version to the right. Click on the image or this link to see a larger version.

The different images in the slices of the year stand for different activities: the text represents writing, the lavender in bloom teaching, the camel travel and the hummingbird is drinking from the month of May which I designated as my marketing month. The sparkles in the darkness correspond with December and January, months I dedicated to renewal and reflection.

During my time off I've been trying to discern what to offer as new treats for my School of the Seasons readers. There are so many things I want to do (enough to constitute a full-time job) yet I'm aware of the demands of my day job which consumes much of my time and my attention. So this newsletter may show up less frequently, perhaps once a month instead of biweekly.

One of my other problems is that I've written for so many years on these topics (both for SageWoman magazine and this web site and others) that I'm getting worried about repeating myself. One of my goals for the new year is to organize and compile my seasonal writings. That will help me keep track of what I've already written and move me towards another goal: publication.

I have two big dreams for the year. I want to self- publish my Slow Time book (at the same time I'm continuing to seek a publisher). I plan to post a section from the book each month on my web site and also have it available to buy as a book (haven't quite decided if it will be an e-book or a real book) by Spring Equinox.

My other big dream is to collaborate more. When I taught my online classes last year, I discovered my students had wonderful seasonal traditions and ideas, games and recipes, rituals and stories to share. So I'm thinking about launching an online magazine (possibly around Autumn Equinox) with links to other web sites and articles from other writers besides me. I'll let you know more about this as Fall approaches.

I've also got new ideas for the Calendar Companion and Correspondence Courses (see below). If there is something in particular you would like to see from School of the Seasons, please let me know.

May your new year be full of exciting prospects,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Updated: February Calendar
February is full of delightful holidays, including St Brigid, Candlemas, Needle Memorial, Valentines Day, St. Vlasios, the day the birds sing, Feast of the Stupid, and all the revelry of Carnival and Mardi Gras. Check out these and other February holidays here.

Living in Season: A Pledge to the Year
I love this time of the year which offers a fresh start, the wide expanse of a whole year in which to place our dreams and hopes. One of my favorite ways of celebrating is to make a collage illustrating the qualities I want to bring into my life. I wrote an article about this which is posted here.

Another of my traditions is to make a sacred pledge on Candlemas to some year-long activity that will deepen my connection with nature and spirit. The idea of a pledge first came from learning about the way Imbolc was celebrated by the Reclaiming Collective. In contemporary pagan practice, Imbolc is the holiday when it's customary to initiate new members into a coven, take a new name, or dedicate oneself to a particular deity for a year and a day. In the Reclaiming ritual, participants made three pledges on Imbolc: one to the world, one to their community (as they defined it) and one to themselves.
 
Although I like the idea of a tri-partite pledge, I've found that making just one pledge provides more than enough spiritual sustenance and growth for a year. The years I've made this pledge in a sacred way (for instance in sacred space, witnessed by others, in the presence of the divine), I've been more likely to follow through than the years I simply write down my pledge in my journal.
 
The first year I made a pledge, I vowed to take a day off (a sabbath) every week. This was an amazing experience--although I was often tempted to work on Sunday (the day I chose) or to fulfill social obligations on that day, the recognition of my sacred commitment pledge made it easy for me to say no. And my sense of time expanded.
 
In subsequent years, my pledges have focused on ways to combine creativity and awareness of the natural world around me. One year, after a winter solstice pilgrimage to the old cemetery near my house, I decided to take photographs in the cemetery on all the seasonal holidays. I hoped to be able to capture on film the changes in the vegetation and the light. So beginning on Candlemas (Feb 2), I went to the cemetery and took two rolls of film on each seasonal holiday. It took a while before I realized the sinister-looking young men hanging out in a particular part of the cemetery were not conducting drug deals but paying homage to Bruce Lee who is buried there. On Halloween, I found red votive candles burning on the steps of the mausoleum. Every season, I found new things to photograph and widened my appreciation of the beauty of shadow and form. My skills as a photographer grew.
 
The following year I made a commitment to write a haiku poem every day based on what I saw as I walked my dog each morning in our neighborhood. I didn't manage to write a poem every day but I did write quite a few, enough so I could pull out some of my favorites to grace my year-end newsletter. Last year my pledge was to make a collaged image for each of the seasonal holidays, using the Soul Collage ™ process. I didn't get all of those done either but I did make the one for Candlemas which you can see here.
 
Other ideas you might consider for an annual pledge: making a wreath for each season (or each holiday), going on a pilgrimage at certain important days in the year (like the solstices and equinoxes), inviting friends to participate in a series of seasonal rituals or feasts.
 
References:
Reclaiming Collective: www.reclaiming.org
Soul Collage ™: www.soulcollage.com
 
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
I'm happy to announce that I'm offering a second year of the Calendar Companion. This is a graceful way to incorporate spirit and seasons into your life. Use it along with your usual planning tools and calendar to help you:

  • Slow time down
  • Consult your soul while creating your schedule
  • Make time for what's truly important in your life
  • Move in rhythm with the seasons and the moon

Every week for 52 weeks you will receive a brief email with a reflection on the qualities of the present time period and one suggestion, task or question that you can savor throughout the week.
 
Start whenever you like. When you order the Calendar Companion, you will receive the next week's calendar companion, along with an introductory email.
 
Round Two: If you've already been receiving the Calendar Companion, please note that I will be writing new material as well as repeating some of your favorites from last year.
 
$20 for a year's worth of gentle reminders to help you stay aligned with natural rhythms. To order or to see a sample reflection, click here.

What I'm Reading: Chasing Spring

Chasing Spring: An American Journey through a Changing Season
by Bruce Stutz, Scribner 2006
 
Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting author Bruce Stutz while he was in Seattle doing research for this book, a journey through spring as it arrives in North America. Edwin Way Teale wrote a similar book, North with the Spring, back in 1951, but it's written in that old-fashioned scientific style, which is a bit dry. Teale has a gift for description but you don't get a lot of personality.
 
Chasing Spring is written in the new style of nature writing, which I love: personal, anecdotal and lyrical. In fact, Bruce begins by talking about the sense of mortality, triggered by heart surgery, which prompted his journey. As we follow him in his 1984 Chevy Impala, criss-crossing from Brooklyn to Arizona, from Oklahoma City to Alaska, we benefit from his friendships and perceptions.
 
Bruce was the editor of Natural History for many years, so the book as you might expect is full of lively interviews and field trips with herpetologists, botanists, and ornithologists and engaging explanations about why groundhogs hibernate and how trees adjust to rising carbon dioxide levels. The threat of global warming which is hastening the arrival of spring is a constant undercurrent. But he also has a keen eye for local color and appreciation of local food (in the time-honored tradition of road trip stories) and a superb understanding of the rituals and celebrations of Spring.
 
Best of all, Bruce is a talented writer, for instance, his first line: "When setting out on a journey, I always take note of the light," or this exuberant passage:

"We can't be children in just-spring again. But being intimate with such energy is every bit as good as being a part of it. And so we're affected when spring comes with its spawning, nesting, breeding, brooding, rising lignin, peeping peepers, its skunk cabbage and mayapple, crocus and magnolia bloom, dandelion and daffodil, when spring comes on the wind and osprey call from familiar hangs, when shorebirds flash across the marsh at dusk, when songbirds sweep into forests to chirrup May and butterflies fuller on solitary flights, when all, all flock determinedly north: fish up ancestral streams, salmon, shad, quicksilver schools of herring and big-eyed hag-faced lamprey. We sow crops, play ball, leave our jackets on the playground at recess, be free and in shirtsleeves, for then comes Hinamatsuri, Holi, Passover, Easter, Rowanfest. Then comes light, resurrection, renewal, joy of survival from heart surgery, joy of spring when, chorused Thomas Nashe, "blooms each thing…the pretty birds do sing, cuckoo, jug, jug, pu-we, to-witta woo!" and when, effused Gerard Manley Hopkins, "weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush"; and when, D. H. Lawrence wondered, "what fountain of fire am I among / This leaping combustion…?" Then we want to be a part of it all."

Auspicious Links

Year of the Dog
I was curious about the implications of the Year of the Dog so I went searching for information on the Internet. My favorite article was this one from a web site called Jade Dragon. It features a general description of what to expect in the Year of the Dog (loyalty and generosity, the characteristics one might expect from a dog). If you go a step further and look at the link to the Animal that Resides in Your Heart, you'll get capsule descriptions of your Chinese Zodiac sign, plus all sorts of information about your ideal career, relationship dynamics and finally a description of what to expect in the Year of the Dog.

New Years Greetings
Here's a great little article on the banners that the Chinese post on their gates and doors to greet the new year.

Song to Brigid
Joanna Powell Colbert, who designed and maintains my web site, just sent me a link to her latest entry in her blog. It features a beautiful song in praise of Brigid written by our mutual friend, Helen, that is sung to an old Irish song, "Bridget O'Malley:" http://gaiantarot.typepad.com/

Signs of Spring
If you scrolled down after reading the entry above, you found Joanna's version of a ninth century Irish poem. The original poem announces the arrival of winter:

I have news for you; the stag bells, winder snows, summer has gone. 
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course, the sea running high. 
Deep red the bracken, its shape is lost; the wild goose has raised its accustomed cry. 
Cold has seized the bird’s wings; season of ice, this is my news. 
[Anonymous translator]

Joanna first encountered the poem in Patricia Monaghan's book, The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit (New World Library 2003). Patricia writes that she immediately loved the tension between the first and final lines and the rest of the poem. How can this be news, she wonders, "What can be new about the commonness of life? But that anonymous poet of the ninth century reminds us of the only real news we can ever know: the glorious sensual specificity, the absolute newness, of each moment we experience in our unique and living bodies."
 
Here's Joanna's poem:

I have news for you: a storm is blowing in from the south. High tide crashes up against the roadway. The heron flies low. Oregon grape is in bloom, the color of butter. Chickadees pick at dangling alder catkins. The baby pink blossoms of red-flowering currant appeared yesterday. It is January, and Spring is peeking though the veil of winter. This is my news.

I liked this form so much I wrote my own poem:

I have news for you. The first snowdrops dangle from green stems. A sweet scent, like a hundred daffodils blooming in a distant wood, perfumes the air. Green blades cut through dark earth. Buds open on bare branches. Wind rattles the windows. Rain splashes against the panes. The promise of spring stirs my heart. This is my news.

Send me your news of spring (or winter) where you live and I will post it on my web site under Signs of the Season.

Copyright
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2006
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.

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