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Living in Season from Waverly Fitzgerald

Living in Season
The official newsletter of School of the Seasons

October 30, 2008
Two days after the new moon
Almost Halloween


Seasonal Quote
November Calendar Update
My Season: Catching Up
Holiday Packet: Halloween
Living in Season: Almanac Love
My Calendar Projects
Holiday Packets for Advent
- Advent Sunwheel
- Thirteen Christmas Cookies
Signs of Autumn
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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

Autumn is a second spring
Where every leaf is a flower

—Albert Camus

November Calendar Update

The October calendar is full of holidays to celebrate including: All Saints, All Souls, Pomona, Guy Fawkes, Shichi Go San, Feronia, Stir Up Sunday, and the start of Advent. To learn more about these and many other holidays at . Learn more about these and many other holidays here.

My Season: Catching Up

It's been a wonderfully full October for me, with classes galore, both offered and taken. I spent four days in Los Angeles, visiting gardens, hanging out with friends and taking a delightfully scented class in Natural Perfumery with pioneer herbalist and aromatherapist, Jeanne Rose.

My latest writing project has been an essay about foraging for fruit, flowers and herbs in my urban neighborhood. While researching this article I learned about the Fallen Fruit brigade, an activist art project, developed by three Los Angeles artists who promote gathering fruit from publicly accessible trees and encourage homeowners to plant fruit trees in their parkways to provide more food. They also publish maps to illustrate the locations of public fruit trees. I followed one of these maps through the winding streets and well-tended gardens of the Hancock Park area while I was in Los Angeles. I didn't find any fruit (I learned that in order to forage for fruit one must 1)be able to identify fruit trees and 2) know when the fruit is in season) but it was a pleasurable ramble. (For more information on the Fallen Fruit brigade, check out:

By delaying in sending this newsletter, I've caught up with my old schedule, which was to send out the November newsletter at the end of October. From now on, I hope to keep up this rhythm. Look for the next newsletter at the end of November.

In good time,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Slow Time Almost a Bestseller!

Two months ago, I learned that my print-on-demand publishing company, Lulu, considers books bestsellers once they reach the 500 copy mark. My book is now at 490 — thanks to those of you who bought books last month when it was at 459. Help push it into bestseller status by buying a copy for yourself or someone you know who needs more time! It makes a great holiday present.

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 tenth chapter, "Holy Days and Holidays" will be posted on November 1. Which means you have three days to download the ninth chapter, "Passing of the Years," if you don't have it already.

Halloween Holiday Packet

I know this is short notice but you can still get the Halloween packet if you order the email version. It will be sent within 24 hours.

This illustrated portfolio includes:

  • The history of Samhain, Halloween, Days of the Dead, Martinmas
  • How this holiday evolved—a history of our alienation from the ancestors
  • The last of the autumnal transformation mysteries: making cider
  • Divinations for this particular crack between the worlds
  • Recipes for traditional foods like dead man's bones and soul cakes
  • Instructions for making skulls and masks
  • and much more.

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.

Living in Season: Almanac Love

Thanks to a fortuitous series of events, I discovered a new almanac: Poor Will's Almanac. It began with my reading my essay on Becoming a Phenologist (you've seen an early version of it in my February newsletter) at a reading in May in Seattle. (If you want to hear me reading my essay, a podcast of the reading is posted here.) An audience member came up to tell me that my work reminded her of the writing of Bill Felker who writes a weekly phenological column for his local paper in Yellow Springs Ohio. She sent him a copy of my essay and he sent me a package containing four of his almanacs, plus a reference to his web site, where he posts observations for the current time period. I was enchanted by his work. No surprise really. Because I love almanacs.

I was inspired to look up the derivation of the word (and also the pronunciation—you can say awl-man-ack and I can say Al-man-ack and we're both correct). My American Heritage Dictionary says the word may be derived from an Arabic word which means a chart or from an Egyptian word that refers to an ephemeris (an ephemeris is a table of astrological transits—I have a shelf of old ephemerides in the plain blue covers of the Rosicrucian Society). The name ephemeris gives a good clue as to the unique nature of the almanac: it charts ephemeral moments in time, passing events like lunations, flowerings, tides, times of sunrise and sunset and the movement of the stars. As such it's closely related to phenology, the observation of natural events over time.

It was the gift of an almanac, The Perpetual Almanack by Charles Kightly, that started me down the path that inspired the School of the Seasons holiday calendar (and you will still find it as the main reference for many holidays therein). Kightly's delightful little book features quaint British customs associated with certain days (times) of the year and is illustrated with ancient engravings and woodcuts. A few years later I encountered The Herbal Almanac by Linda Ours Rago, still available from the publisher, Fulcrum. This looks at the lore of herbs associated with particular days of the year, and fills in, like Kightly, with customs that are appropriate to a season where no specific association can be made. Both of these are perpetual almanacs, that is, they are designed to be used over and over again every year. Which is not usual for an almanac.

Early almanacs featured forecasts, mostly astrological. Old Moore's Almanack, which has been published in England since 1692, was created by Francis Moore, a physician and astrologer in the court of Charles II. Gradually these forecasts developed into forecasts of weather patterns, useful for farmers, and tide tables, useful for fishermen. Any almanac maker needs to have a body of data at hand to use in making predictions. The makers of the Old Farmer's Almanac use a secret formula to make their weather predictions that has been passed down over 216 years.

Bill Felker's almanac evolved from his fascination with the gift of a barometer. As he charted the peaks and valleys of the temperature and barometric pressure recorded by the barometer, he noticed that certain weather patterns were predictable where he lived. This was the start of his almanac. As he went along, he began keeping records on when plants flowered so he can now provide a list of flowering plants for each day of the year (such a list makes my heart sing and my self-appointed task of writing about flowers much easier). He also publishes a SAD index (based on the amount of sunlight available) and a pollen index. He has named the moons after natural events in his region: the current moon cycle is the Second Spring Moon.

Benjamin Franklin published an almanac called Poor Richard's Almanac from 1732 to 1758, which featured weather forecasts, household hints plus Franklin's inimitable advice and aphorisms (like "Early to bed and early to rise"). It was Franklin's personality that made this almanac such a big success.

In a household in which there weren't many books, an almanac was designed to provide entertainment, including games, puzzles and stories. Supposedly the hole in the left hand corner of the Old Farmer's Almanac is there so it can be hung from a nail in the outhouse. Modern almanacs have slanted towards this end of things. The World Almanac (first published by the New York World newspaper in 1868 and now a web site) offers lots of "What happened on this day in history" features as well as a potpourri of interesting facts, albeit facts that are not related to the particular day on which they appear.

A similar enterprise but much more attached to each day of the year, is the compendium of information produced by Pip Wilson in his online Book of Days. Pip has compiled 3.9 million words of information for every day of the year, including quotations from famous people born or associated with the day, weather prognostications and folklore. Pip used to rely on my calendar for information; now I rely on his. Every time I visit his site, I find more amazing things. While harvesting URLs for this article, I discovered a link to a site that provides your birthday star (that is a star that was born about the same time as you were):

The problem with big almanacs, like the Old Farmers Almanac (which now has a web version as well) and the World Almanac, is that they cover such a wide range. Poor Will's Almanack corrects this problem by being very specific. Felker focuses on what's happening in his home town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, even to the very specific flowering of plants outside Mrs. Richardson's house. When he does travel, he's always marking the differences, the way the flowers bloom earlier and later than at home.

It seems to me an almanac should stay rooted in its origins: in the natural world of a particular place, and that's what is so lovely about Bill Felker's work. Although I believe his list of flowering plants will be useful to me in Seattle, it's clearly not going to work exactly. And that inspires me to create my own almanac. In fact, I envision with great glee, creating a web site which would feature almanacs from all over the country, much like my current feature Signs of the Season, in which readers could post their sightings for their locales.

Almanac Resources:

Felker, Bill, Poor Will's Almanack:
Fitzgerald, Waverly, "Practicing Phenology," School of the Seasons:
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack
Old Farmer's Almanac:
Rago, Linda Ours, The Herbal Almanac,
Wilson, Pip, Book of Days:
World Almanac,

My Calendar Projects

One reason I delayed in sending out this newsletter is that I wanted to announce my fabulous calendar products for 2009. I know all the calendars are already out in the stores, and I've already bought my Pocket Astrologer for the year (my favorite guide to astrological and moon cycles which can be ordered at plus a gorgeous Herbal Journal which features a plant for every week (available at

But I really want YOU to save room in your calendar-purchasing life to buy one of my calendar creations. I'm working on

  • A French Republican Calendar for 2009 (featuring a plant a day)
  • A weekly planner with ideas for celebrating each week plus gorgeous photos
  • The Natural Planner (a tool for planning your way through the seasons)

Unfortunately I don't have any of them far enough along to be able to give you a price which is why I can't refer you to my store to purchase them right now. I will send out another email within two weeks letting you know when they're ready.

Holiday Packets for Advent

Advent is celebrated in some Christian households with a candle-lighting ceremony on the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Thus Pagan Advent ceremonies, like those described by Helen Farias in her book The Advent SunWheel, would be most appropriately celebrated on the four Sundays before Winter Solstice. Since the Solstice this year falls on a Sunday, I believe the two Advents coincide.

If you're interested in new ideas for celebrating this magical time of waiting for the return of the Sun (or the Son), check out my article on Advent at

Or order The Advent Sunwheel, Helen Farias's collection of four tales of the Scandinavian winter deities, appropriate for reading at Advent gatherings, along with recipes and other ideas for celebrating Advent. It can be ordered at my website:

$15 for the print version (please allow 10 days for delivery) or $10 for the email version (sent in 24 hours)

It was Helen Farias who told me that it is traditional to bake thirteen different kinds of cookies during the Christmas season, a charge I try to carry out by making three different cookies each week of Advent. You can order my little book of recipes for 13 traditional Winter Holiday cookies at:

$15 for the print version (please allow 10 days for delivery) or $10 for the email version (sent in 24 hours)

Signs of Autumn

The leaves are falling in Seattle. Send me your signs of the season and we will post them on the website at Signs of the Season.


Copyright © Waverly Fitzgerald 2008
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from
Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as
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