Living in Season
The official newsletter of School of the Seasons
June 7, 2007
June Calendar Update
My Season: Flowers of May
Books on my Shelf: Flower Books
Living in Season: Metamorphosis
Holiday Packet: Midsummer
Signs of Summer
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Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life.
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People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. Iris Murdoch.
June Calendar Update
The June calendar is up and full of many rainy, herbal and flowery holidays. For more details, go to the June Calendar.
My amazing webmistress, good friend and brilliant artist, Joanna Powell Colbert, has declared June to be Green Smoothie Experiment month and invited her friends to join her in drinking one green smoothie every day. I think I'll take her up on it. For more about Joanna and why she is doing this, check out her blog.
My Season: The Flowers of May
Last year when I became infatuated with flowers, I through eventually I would learn the names of all the flowers I encountered on my walks. As spring opens into early summer here in Seattle, I’ve realized that belief was naïve. Everywhere I look I see new flowers, even in places where I wouldn’t expect to find flowers (like in birch catkins). So that’s goodI love that I am still surround by mysterybut bad, in that I feel overwhelmed. I couldn’t even choose flowers to feature in my blog (which has pretty much withered at the moment), since there were so many to choose from.
Overwhelm pretty much describes my current state of mind. Last time you heard from me (many weeks ago), our cat Faithfull, appeared to be recovering from her decline. But she went downhill again, then up, then down, through several cycles. As she got weaker she became more appreciative of affection and was purring until the very last day. We had a little party in her honor on Saturday and talked about her life with friends who loved her too. She died that night; I had my hand on her as she took her last breath. My daughter and I buried her in back of the apartment building and scattered her body with rose petals.
Faithfull died at the end of a stressful week, which culminated in my buying a car, a new car (which was not what I was looking for but, hey, I got a great deal and I love having a new car): a bright yellow Ford Focus ZX3. Of course, that means letting go of my old car, the admirable Grandmamobile, a 1978 Ford Granada that has moss growing on the window rubber. It’s still sitting in front of my apartment building scattered with maple tree flowers (yes, I didn’t know that maple trees had flowers!) but someone is coming to tow it away, probably tomorrow.
My daughter became seriously ill, got better, then got a new job. I finished teaching a class on Revision and taking a Master Class in Prose and kept on meeting with my writing group and working on my detective novel. Everything is blooming like crazy except for my Slow Time book. I’ve had several technical difficulties (and anticipate more since Mercury is going retrograde) but I’m hoping to get it out by Summer Solstice.
May the summer shower you with opportunities, but not too many,
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On My Bookshelf: Flower Books
In my quest to learn more about flowers, I’ve found many wonderful books. These two were so wonderful I had to buy them:
Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles: The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers, by Jack Sanders, McGraw Hill 1995
One of my readers told me about Jack Sanders, and I have to admit, at first I was unhappy to see that he had written the book I wanted to write: a seasonal guide to common flowers, with charming illustrations and short but comprehensive essays on each plant’s history and uses. Fortunately for me, Sanders focuses on wildflowers (I am casting my net wider to include garden plants) and has a regional slant towards the Northeast. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), the flowers in the title are ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). The book was updated with wonderful photographs and reissued in 2003 by Lyons Press under the name: The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History. On the Amazon page for this book, Jack Sanders has a blog; I especially like his entry about the Scents of the Season.
Metamorphosis of Flowers, Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, Abrams 2003
This is a hardcover, photography book and thus something that I normally wouldn’t consider within my price range. But sadly (for the authors and publisher, but luckily for us) it has been remaindered and is available for very reasonable prices online. Full of exquisite, close-up photographs of common flowers (tulips, poppies, iris) going through their growth from bud to seed and the text has that poetry so common in French writing (the author and photographer are French botanists).
Living in Season: Metamorphosis
Thanks to the book I mentioned above, I’ve completely changed my orientation towards flowers. Where once I saw them as the climax of the plant, the high point in the cycle, I’m now much more aware of them as simply one phase in a cycle.
Last weekend at my community garden I was admiring the poppies blooming in other gardeners’ plots. I’ve always loved the huge papery petals and the dried seed pods, scattering seeds like little pepper shakers, but now I’m hunting out buds about to burst, admiring the way the colored petals seem to unfurl from the green embrace of the sepals, like handkerchiefs unfurling in the hands of a magician and looking for those flowers in which the petals have fallen away, where the green central stigma stands alone on the green stalk, ready to ripen into the familiar seed pod.
For weeks I’ve been appreciating the purple and white flowers of the lunaria which sprout, like weeds, in untended patches of ground in my neighborhood. Then one day where the flowers had been were the little round hard green shells that will enlarge into the big round translucent seed pods that give the plant its name (lunaria because they are white and round like the moon). (It’s also known as the Silver Dollar Plant and Honesty.) I’ve not yet figured out how the plant makes this transition but I’m watching it carefully. I want to catch it in the act.
The art of transformation is a mysterious one. Summer holidays seem to capture this feeling. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles, infusing them with spiritual energy. At the Transfiguration, Christ reveals his divine form, glowing like the sun. In the seasonal metaphors of the Kabbalists, the summer is the time of air, moving towards the pure spirit of fall. Even the rose, the supreme flower of summer, has long been associated with love, sexuality and death.
I remember when my daughter was young, every transition was so difficult. She would get frustrated before she learned to talk, to walk. Or maybe that was me who was getting frustrated. Now I still feel that impatience. When will I get the book done? When will my daughter move out? When will the cat get better? It’s so tempting to focus on the end result but I am trying to pay more attention to enjoying the process, each step of which is unique and will never come again.
New Online Course: Flowers of Summer
June 22 September 22
I’m trying out a version of the flower book as a summer course. It’s twelve weeks long, starting at summer solstice and going through Lammas. Each week you’ll receive a short email and a homework assignment which will encourage you to go out and interact with flowers in your part of the world. The topics include naming flowers, drawing flowers, identifying flowers, eating flowers, drinking flowers, creating essential oils with flowers, making medicine with flowers, etc. The goal is to develop a more intimate understanding of the flowers that surround you: one a week.
I know that summer is a busy time for most of us but participating in this course should not take longer than a half hour to read the email and an hour to do the homework, although, of course, you could do much more, if you choose. As part of the course you will be enrolled in a Yahoo group where you can post your homework assignments, participate in discussions and post pictures.
If you can’t take the course this summer, know that I will probably offer it again next year. The cost is $120 for the twelve weeks and I’m limiting the class to 12 participants.
You can learn more about the class and register at this link.
Holiday Packet: Midsummer
This illustrated portfolio contains over 40 pages of ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, Herb Evening, St. John’s 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.
It is available in an email version for $10 (sent within 24 hours) or via snail mail for $15 (please allow 10 days for delivery). Order through our Store.
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
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. To order or to see a sample reflection, go to our Store.
Signs of Summer
The cottonwood fluff is flying through the air around here. My friend, Kim, from Texas, says it’s “throwing cotton.” What are the signs of summer where you live?
Where ever you live, send me your signs of the season and we will post them at the website at Signs of the Season.
Copyright © Waverly Fitzgerald 2007
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