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Living in Season from Waverly Fitzgerald

Living in Season
The official newsletter of School of the Seasons

July 10, 2008


Seasonal Quote: Katagiri Roshi
July Calendar Update
My Season: Going to Seed
Slow Time Update
Living in Season: Burn Out [reprise]
What I'm Reading
School of the Seasons Offerings:
• Lammas Holiday Packet
• Summer Correspondence Course
• Calendar Companion
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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Seasonal Quote

Settle your self on yourself

And let the flower

Of your life force bloom

—Katagiri Roshi

July Calendar Update

The July calendar is up. Celebrate the feast days of Mary Magdalene and St. Martha. Learn about holidays like O-Bon, Ocean Day, Dog Days and Ice Cream Day, at

My Season: Going to Seed

The honeysuckle and linden trees are blooming in Seattle and filling the air with sweet fragrance. But this year, more than ever, and perhaps because I've been studying botany for my writing about flowers, I'm noticing the amazing ways flowers change to seeds.

The poppies are forming magnificent brown pepper pots. The cheery orange coreopsis petals are shriveling into brown disks clutching a nest of black seeds. I especially like the way the petals of the rhododendrons drop off, leaving a green tube that swells. I can hardly wait to see what the next transformation will be.

In my life, things have settled down after the crises of the spring. My daughter is recovering. My best friend also. I'm getting used to the loss of my brother although grief still hangs around in the background, surprising me with the exhaustion it brings.

I'm trying to take it easy this summer which is why I've reprinted one of my favorite articles from 2003 about burnout: Dog Days of Summer. I'm hoping that leaving myself plenty of free time will allow the room for new ideas to bloom.

This month, I'm meeting with my wonderful business coach, Noelle Remington (, and have scheduled a consultation with one of my favorite mentors, Mark Silver (, all with the glorious intention of transforming School of the Seasons. I look forward to launching something new (or maybe just clarifying what I currently offer) in September.

May your summer bring you space for new growth,
Waverly Fitzgerald

New Slow Time Book News

The Slow Time book stopped climbing up the ranks at Lulu, my print-on-demand publisher. (Last month it was at 706, now it's 716). If you're interested in buying a copy (great summer reading) you can order it directly from Lulu here.

I finally created a Listmania list on Amazon which features my Favorite Books on Time that are not Time Management. If you've got my Slow Time book, you'll recognize many of these as I quote them frequently:

If you’d rather read my Slow Time book slowly, I’m posting the chapters, one a month, on the Slow Time book website. The seventh chapter, “Moons to Months” will be posted on July 15.

Living in Season: Dog Days of Summer [August 2003]

In August of 1942 when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized, up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thickly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the Coast. I wonder now, however, whether there might be something to the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us under the Sign of the Dog Star.

With that ominous paragraph W.G. Sebald starts his novel The Rings of Saturn, a strange, rambling narrative that wanders all over the place like the journey through Suffolk it describes.

You can read all about the Dog Days in my calendar on July 2nd although there are many different dates assigned, including July 4, July 17, July 22 (St Margaret's day), July 28 (the start of the fruit harvest in Greece) and August 18 (or at the start of Leo). So many dates but all linked to one thing: the rising of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

Sirius is the dog tag around the neck of the dog depicted in the constellation Canis Major, which Sirius is the dog tag around the neck of the dog depicted in the constellation Canis Major, which leaps up to the left of Orion the Huntsman (some say he is jumping up at the Hare at Orion's feet). You can find Sirius by following the line made by the three stars in Orion's belt, down and to the left. If you're a savvy star-watcher (I'm not), you're now saying "but Orion is only visible in winter!" That's true, the star that once rose at dawn around summer solstice in Egypt in 4,000 BCE now rises around dawn in February in the United States.

But in earlier times, the Dog Star rose at the hottest part of the year, a time when the searing heat of the sun brought sickness and made life precarious, like the similar period right after Winter Solstice, the six weeks before Candlemas, when people were likely to perish of cold and starvation. (Of course, in the southern hemisphere the opposite conditions prevail.)

Arthur Waskow describes this period most beautifully in his opening paragraph on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish festival which occurs at the height of summer's heat (Aug 10 this year):

It is the heart of summer: hot as a furnace, dry as the tomb. A shower, a breeze are forgotten memories. The earth is panting in exhaustion — almost as if the birthing of her harvest has gone awry, as if the birth-pangs will go on forever but there will be no fruit. And people are exhausted, too; their freshness and fertility, warmed and renewed by the sun of spring, has wilted as the sun grew still hotter. We feel burnt out. The whole world is being put to the torch.

The Greeks considered this period especially dangerous for men, based on their belief that men were hot and dry, thus easily dessicated by the heat of summer, while women, naturally cold and wet, were likely to be more lascivious and thus dangerous to their weakened men. This belief persisted throughout the ages, with men advised to eschew sex during the Dog Days, as in this advice from The Husbandmen's Practice in 1729:

In these Dog Days it is forbidden by Astronomy to all Manner of People to be let Blood or take Physic. Yea, it is good to abstain all this time from Women. For why, all that time reigneth a Star that is called Canicula Canis, a Hound in English, and the kind of the Star is broiling and burning as Fire. All this time the Heat of the Sun is so fervent and violent that Men's bodies at Midnight sweat as at Midday; and if they be hurt, they be more sick than at any other time, yea very near Dead.

I like the notion that there's a time of year that is particularly dangerous to men because women are so wanton. It reminds me of the belief that May was the women's month and thus an unlucky time to marry, for the woman would have the power in the marriage. This may be a time period that women want to recapture, a time for asserting desire and kindling the fires of passion.

Mary B Kelly, writing about Russian folklore, mentions the belief that the Rusalka arrived (also during the height of summer) on the Monday after Trinity Sunday bringing with them Rusalka sickness. This was considered dangerous and women were not allowed to spin, weave, sleep during the day or wash their hair. They wore garlic and walnut leaves for protection and spent time gathering flowers and making bouquets for their lovers. Kelly speculates that Rusalka sickness was a kind of lovesickness that was ritually indulged and then banished.

But I also wonder if the Dog Days offer us a chance to recognize the dangers of infatuation and lust, the way they burn up desire, like the Gardens of Adonis which flourish for a brief time period, then wither and die. Some lines from a Cole Porter song, "Just One of Those Things," seem appropriate here:

If we'd thought a bit
At the start of it
When we started painting the town
We'd have been aware
That our love affair
Was too hot not to cool down

Or perhaps the Dog Days provide a chance, as Waskow suggests, to examine where we are burnt out, where we need to regroup and gather our resources, nurture ourselves by withdrawing from too much activity rather than pushing forward.

Sebald, W.G., The Rings of Saturn, New Directions 1999
Kelly, Mary B, "Bulgarian Rituals," excerpted in Goddessing Regenerated, Issue #10, (PO Box 269, Valrico FL 33595). From the book, Goddess Embroideries of Eastern Europe, (available for $25 from Studiobooks, Box 23, McLean NY 13102)
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press 1982

What I'm Reading:

Poor Will's Almanack
By Bill Felker

A woman who heard me read my essay on phenology at a reading at Jack Straw Studios in May, sent a copy of my essay to Bill Felker, who writes a phenology column for his local newspaper in Yellow Springs, Ohio and also publishes almanacs and tracks phonological events at his web site

Bill turned around and sent me copies of his almanacks and I've been luxuriating in his attentive writing ever since. He predicts weather patterns, lists flowering plants for every day of year, provides a pollen count and a SAD index (hours of sunlight available), describes what's happening in the night sky, and writes a perceptive and elegant essay to begin each month. I love Bill's writing and his sensibility and will write more about his work almanacs in general in a later newsletter. This is what I'll be giving out as gifts next Christmas.

Dog Years
by Mark Doty
Harper Perennial 2008

In keeping with the Dog Days theme, I wanted to mention my favorite book of last year, which I did give as a Christmas present. My friend who received it as a gift said it was “the most beautiful writing” he had ever read. I agree. The writing is stunning (Doty is a poet), the topic is poignant (Doty deals with the loss of both a partner and their two dogs during the time frame of the book) and the level of thought both complicated and deep. It's a book I expect to reread often and find new layers and riches in every time.

Lammas Holiday Packet

Ah! The mysterious, ineffable holiday of Lammas.

This illustrated, 30+ page portfolio includes:

  • Ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions of Lughnasad and Lammas
  • Transformation mysteries of beer and bread
  • Recipes for mead and methlegyn, medicinal and fermented honey beverages
  • Instructions for creating wheat weavings and lavender wands
  • Lyrics for Lammas songs, including Brigg Fair and John Barleycorn
  • and much more.

You can view a sample from the packet at:

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.

Summer Correspondence Course

Due to popular demand, the summer correspondence course is available again.

You can join the class which is in session or opt to receive the packets without enrolling in the class.

The class includes nine packets covering Correspondences of Summer, Natural Studies, Summer Feasts, Summer Crafts, Summer Goddesses, Summer Magic, Summer Personal Growth, Midsummer and Lammas.

The cost for the online class, which includes feedback and interaction with other students, is $99. To register go to:

To order the packets only, go to:

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.

$26 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.

Signs of Summer

Here's a lovely sign of summer from Kami in Eugene, Oregon on June 16:

Today I went out to my garden and ate the very first ripe strawberry off my plants. It was wonderful!

Send me your signs of the season and we will post them on the website at Signs of the Season.


Copyright © Waverly Fitzgerald 2008
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Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as
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