Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 8
May 23, 2005
- My Season: Busy Bee
- June Calendar: Upcoming
- Living in Season: The Language of Flowers
- Personal Appearances: Take Back Your Time/Boulder Workshop
- Holiday Packet: Midsummer
- Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
- Signs of Summer
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
Welcome to my periodical newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. If you enjoy this newsletter, please forward it.
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My Season: Busy Bee
I am recovered from my cold and able to enjoy all the delicious scents of the summer and just in time. My neighbors century plant (agave Americana) is blooming for the first time since Ive lived in this neighborhood (which is 14 years supposedly it blooms a bit more often than every century). Its an incredible fragrance, like iris multiplied by vanilla.
Like a bee, Ive been buzzing with busy-ness. I designated the month of May as my marketing month (so I dont have to feel guilty about not doing it the rest of the year) and Ive been sending out book proposals, applying for jobs and proposing classes. For some reason, or maybe its just the energy of May, my mind is buzzing with ideas. My only problem is to decide which of the many flowers attracting my attention I should buzz around.
One of my many hobbies, one I havent pursued for a long time because its so dangerously seductive, is family history and genealogy. This Tuesday Im leaving for a week in Milwaukee doing research on my mothers family (Bohemian immigrants) and meeting my relatives at a family reunion. So you wont be receiving your usual newsletter around the start of the month. Instead Ill be sending you a newsletter with a midsummer focus around June 6 so youll have time to plan your midsummer celebrations.
Blessings of the pleasures of pollination,
June Calendar: Upcoming
I just sent the update for the June calendar to my fabulous webmistress, Joanna Powell Colbert and shell have it up in a few days. Visit my web site within the next week to see what holidays you can celebrate in June.
Living in Season: Language of the Flowers
Ive always been fascinated by the idea of the language of the flowers, the idea that flowers carry particular meanings and can be used to deliver secret messages. I first came across the concept in Kate Greenaways book, The Language of Flowers, a small book filled with charming illustrations. But the execution was not as pleasing as the idea in my mind the simple associations (some of which didnt make sense) didnt carry the resonance I craved. Later I found other books containing languages of the flowers and each was subtly different. For instance, grass might mean utility, compensation for valor or submission.
When my daughter, Shaw, was born, my good friend Ellen, knowing my predilection, gave me a flower arrangement in which each flower was carefully chosen, with a card attached detailed her wishes for the baby (like a modern day fairy godmother). Still it was clear Ellen was hampered by the available choices. The flowers with the most appropriate meanings didnt necessarily go together in a bouquet nor were they in season at the time Shaw was born.
So in every way the language of the flowers seemed clumsy and somewhat disappointing. Thus I was delighted to find Beverly Seatons book The Language of the Flowers: A History. Seaton is a cultural historian specializing in the Victorian period and she provides a comprehensive and scholarly look at the development of this fanciful notion.
The sentimental flower book (usually combining folklore and botany) first appeared in Napoleonic France and rapidly spread to England. Flower books were generally parlor-table books for the Victorians (the equivalent of our coffee-table books) given as gifts for birthdays, New Years and Sunday School graduations, and almost always given to women, as flowers were associated with women because of their fragility and beauty.
Those of you who have known me for a while know that I started a feature called Flower of the Month and stopped writing for it after adding a few flowers (the lotus, the dahlia) because I was unhappy (as a folklorist) with the lack of credible source material. Now I know that this is part of the genre flower books, almanacs and annuals, were never meant to be anything more than decorative.
Of course, flowers have had symbolic meanings for a long time. In Christian art, the rose, the lily and the violet were used as symbols of the passion of Christ, the purity of Mary and the virtues of humility and modesty.
Heres a lovely list of the many flowers associated with Mary:
And heres another comprehensive listing of plants associated with Mary, including links to fascinating articles:
The Chinese and Japanese have also assigned meanings to flowers for centuries, with flowers serving as symbols in both poetry and paintings. Often the qualities associates with the flower come from habits (the peach blossom represents marriage because it blooms in spring when most marriages occur) or because of the sound of its name (the chrysanthemum represents endurance because it rhymes with that word). But these flowers dont often have romantic connotations.
The idea of the language of the flowers sprang from a romantic notion about Oriental courtship. English travelers like Lady Mary Wortly Montagu wrote about how Turkish women communicated with their secret lovers by putting significant objects, including flowers, into a handkerchief and throwing them over the walls that confined them. This idea was taken up in France and the first language of the flower book was published in 1810.
As the idea spread and was popularized, authors copied from each other and made up their own meanings for flowers not on the earlier lists. Often these meanings were based on the characteristics of the flowers (color, odor, growth) and their names. The bawdier meanings of the French flowers were dropped from English lists. Likewise, as the idea spread to America, new flowers were added. It became the basis of gift books, was mentioned in novels and featured in games, but there is little evidence that lovers ever communicated with each other through this secret language.
Seaton mentions that when shes interviewed about her research, the interviewer is usually disappointed to learn that there is no single set of meanings for flowers or that they were not used a method of sending love messages in days of yore. But I was delighted by the news. It means we can make up whatever we want.
Tricia, one of the participants in my Spring online course, did research for the class on the Welsh goddess, Blodeuwedd, who was formed from nine flowers (mountain primrose, broom, meadow sweet, cockle, bean, nettle, oak, thorn and chestnut). Her story is told in the collection of ancient Welsh tales, the Mabinogion:
Tricia took the imagery of being created from flowers (a metaphor she associates with the influences that shape us as children)and came up with the following nine personal flowers: Cherry blossom, Rowan, Gorse, Oak, Bluebells, wild primrose, snowdrops, heather and forget-me-nots. I like this conceit, and invite you to spend time discovering the nine flowers that make up your essence. Or developing your own language of the flowers.
Hole, Christina, A Dictionary of British Folk Customs, Granada Publishing 1976
Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press 1997
Porter, Enid, Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore, 1969, quoted in Hutton
Seaton, Beverly, The Language of the Flowers: A History, University Press of Virginia 1995
Im going to be making two presentations on Slow Time this summer.
Take Back Your Time
Im happy to be offering a workshop on Natural Time at the Take Back Your Time Day conference in Seattle, August 5 -7. I had a great time at last years conference in Chicago, especially enjoying the way the conference is designed to mix people together so we can swap ideas and resources and leave with encouragement and ideas for our own work. Ill be speaking on a panel that includes Robina McCurdy, who teaches classes in community-building and permaculture in New Zealand and Huckleberry who teaches native plant identification, wild foods foraging and seed collecting, and facilitates deep nature connection experiences in the Olympic National Park of Washington. Heres a link for more information about the conference:
Im also going to be presenting a Friday night lecture and day-long Saturday workshop on Slow Time in Boulder, Colorado, on September 9 and 10, thanks to an invitation from Bonnie Schwab of Studio Be Yoga. Stay tuned for more details.
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
Its not too late to order the Calendar Companion, the latest offering from School of the Seasons. 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.
$20 for a year's worth of gentle reminders to help you stay aligned with natural rhythms. Click here to order, or to see a sample reflection.
Holiday Packet: Midsummer
Its a good time to think about ordering your Midsummer packet if you want to get it in time to use the ideas in your Midsummer celebrations.
This illustrated portfolio contains over 40 pages of ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, Herb Evening, St. Johns Day and Litha. It tells you how to
- gather and use magical Midsummer herbs like St John's Wort
- prepare a picnic of traditional Midsummer foods
- use the petals of roses to make conserves, butter and rosaries
- create Gardens of Adonis
- and much more
You can read an excerpt from the packet on making wreaths (a traditional way to celebrate Midsummer) here.
The print version is $14; please allow 10 days for delivery. An email version is also available for $9. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours. Order here.
Signs of Summer
May Day marks the beginning of summer in the old British Isles system of reckoning the season. It's a bit strange to think of summer starting so soon, but I've come to recognize it by the particular flowers it brings. What's blooming where you live?
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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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