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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, Number 18
November 19, 2004
Our Lady of Divine Providence


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Light in the Darkness
  • Living in Season: Waiting for the Light
  • Advent of Advent
  • On the Web: Counting Down at Yule
  • In the Library: Winter Books
  • Holiday Packet: Yule
  • Signs of the Season: Winter
  • Winter Correspondence Course
  • Copyright
  • 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: Darkness Falling
Thanks to all of you who sent well wishes and prayers for me and my daughter, whether in words or just in thought. I felt selfish, writing about my problems in what should be an uplifting newsletter, but I learned a lot from doing so. Within a few days, my attitude had shifted so I am now able to appreciate the time I spend with my daughter rather than seeing her problems as a burden. And I am sure that is true, in great part, to your timely intervention on the spiritual plane.

It's even more remarkable that I began to see this light in the darkness right after the election. But I am taking heart, there as well, from the many ways people are creating hope and rallying to heal the hard feelings stirred up by the election.

A few nights later, we had an opportunity to see the Northern Lights here in Seattle. Did you? I understand they were visible as far south as the Carolinas. Unfortunately, the sky was covered with clouds, as usual in Seattle, but I could see the shifting patterns of red and green behind them.

May you enjoy this time of darkness, knowing the light will return.

Living in Season: Waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought for you are not ready for thought.
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.
T S Eliot, "East Coker," Four Quartets

I've been thinking a lot about waiting, since that is the activity of Advent, a time of waiting for the Sun to be reborn at Winter Solstice, or the Son to be born in the manger at Bethlehem. This year Pagan Advent (the four Sundays before Winter Solstice) and Christian Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas) coincide with both beginning on November 28.

I've been thinking a lot about waiting, since that is the activity of Advent, a time of waiting for the Sun to be reborn at Winter Solstice, or the Son to be born in the manger at Bethlehem. This year Pagan Advent (the four Sundays before Winter Solstice) and Christian Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas) coincide with both beginning on November 28.

The Advent ceremony is one of many Christmas customs which represent in a physical form the mingled excitement and impatience of waiting. You open the doors and windows of an Advent calendar one day at a time until on Christmas Day, depending on whether or not your calendar is a religious one or a secular one, you open the door on the manger scene of on a star at the top of a Christmas tree. The setting out of the creche in Christmas households also marks time. In my childhood, we set up the stable first, then slowly peopled it with figures and animals, shepherds and sheep, Joseph and Mary and finally, at midnight on Christmas Eve, the baby Jesus was placed in the manger. The lighting of the Hanukkah candles, an additional candle at sunset each night for eight nights, is another visible marking of the passing of time at the darkest time of the year.

Midwinter. The darkest and coldest time of the year is also the time of the most miraculous birth, whether you celebrate the birth of the Sun or the Son of God. And the time leading up to it is charged with anticipation, like the last weeks of pregnancy.

There is a certain point in late pregnancy when the waiting seems oppressive. Every morning you wake up thinking, "This is probably the day!" and when nothing happens, you can't believe that you could possibly endure another day, of waiting, of pressure, of physical discomfort. I've always believed this is Nature's way of changing a woman's attitude towards childbirth so that what once seemed terrifying now seems like a blessed relief.

Once labor begins, the pregnant woman is swept away by a natural process which utterly transforms her life, and wipes out all memory of the tedious days of waiting. So it is with the dark days of winter, whether their end is signaled by the excitement of presents under the Christmas tree or marked by the green shoots of spring. But until then, how to get through the darkness?

The other day while waiting in line to order at my neighborhood bagel shop, the woman in front of me was impatient. She shifted back and forth as she waited for her bagel to be prepared. Then her Americano didn't have enough water in it. She tapped the counter with her fingers while more water was added. While I was ordering my breakfast, she showed up again and slammed the creamer down on the counter. "Wouldn't you know?" she wailed, "that this would happen on the morning I'm running late? The creamer is empty!"

Meanwhile I heard an interchange between the two women behind me who were unsure who had gotten in line first. "It doesn't matter to me," said one woman. "I don't mind waiting. Anticipation makes the food taste better."

I thought about this throughout the day as I reflected on the theme of waiting. The angry woman did not get her meal faster than the patient one and she probably had a harder time digesting it. When you see only the goal as worthwhile, then waiting is a hideous state that must be endured to achieve the goal. If you can make waiting an enjoyable process, then you get two benefits. The pleasure of the goal and the pleasure of that liminal period which precedes it.

The beauty of the Eliot poem at the start is the way it shows us how to embrace waiting. Waiting is really not waiting for something, or, if we are waiting for something, what we get is often not what we thought we were going to get. No, waiting is a mysterious place between the letting go of desire and the birth of a new desire. If we think we know where we're going, we lose the opportunity to dwell in the mystery, to allow new impulses to emerge from the darkness, to allow new desires to enter our hearts.

So practice waiting, with heart, with art, this year as you endure the longdark days before the Winter Solstice. When you must wait--when you are stuck in traffic, at the doctor's office, for the bus-adopt an attitude of curiosity about waiting. Can you enjoy the experience? Filling that empty time with another activity, like listening to books-on-tape in the car, is not necessarily the only way to enjoy it. I have a friend who loves his commute across the floating bridge every morning, often in bumper-to-bumper traffic, because he simply enjoys looking at the sky and the water.

Change your attitude towards waiting. Welcome it. Instead of racing to make it through every changing light, see how many yellow lights you can stop for. At the supermarket, choose the longest line, not the shortest. Go to a restaurant where you know you will have to wait for a table, or a popular movie on the day it is first released. What happens when you are willing to wait, when you choose waiting?

The next time you experience an ending in your life (like the end of a relationship, the end of a friendship, the end of a job, the end of a project), consciously set aside some waiting time, time when you will not go out seeking a replacement but give yourself time to experience the emptiness that follows loss and precedes desire.

Advent of Advent
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 here.

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 through our Store.

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 in our Store.

On the Web: Counting Down to Solstice
From Teresa Ruano, an amazing web site devoted to Winter Solstice which includes a calendar listing activities for each day, plus great articles on the holidays of the season

In the Library: Winter Books
I owe many thanks to yet another reader whose name I've lost somewhere on my computer for recommending a fabulous book:

The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein, Harper Perennial
1996 (previously published as The Vegetarian Hearth)
It's a beautifully written, loving look at the foods of winter, full of great (and relatively simple) recipes for winter feasts, including soups, desserts, beverages, salads, and breakfasts plus wonderful essays on subjects as varied as buckwheat, Tolstoy's vegetarianism, Shrovetide festivities and Celebrations of Light. This would be a wonderful book to give as a gift.

And for those of you who weren't reading this newsletter last year, many readers wrote to tell me that they loved this book which I recommended:
Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
edited by Gary Schmidt & Susan M Felch
published by Skylight Paths Publishing, 2003
a series of beautiful essays and poems on all aspects of the season from dormancy through delight

Holiday Packet: Yule
The Yule holiday packet is a big one: 60 pages stuffed with information on midwinter holidays, magical gift-givers, recipes for Christmas morning porridges and warming beverages, menus for Christmas dinner, instructions for making luminarias and pomanders, and a selection of Yule songs. It's available to purchase in our Store.

I've posted some sample pages from my Yule packet at my website so you can see how it turned out. This link will take you to pages on the tradition of lighting lights in the darkness.

Signs of Winter
One of my students in the last Time Class came up with many imaginative names for the full moons of the year including the Moon of Putting On Socks. Which happens around now. For me this is the moon of Tracking in Leaves. The oval, red leaves of the cherry tree outside are always littering my living room floor as they get tracked in on the bottom of wet shoes.

I love getting a glimpse of the season in so many different places. Send me the signs of the season where you live, and I will post them here.

Winter Correspondence Course
November 1st is the Celtic New Year and the start of winter by the old British reckoning of the season (as illustrated by the alternate name for the Winter Solstice: Midwinter). So it's time to order the Winter correspondence course if you're interested in ideas for aligning with the rhythms of Winter.

The Winter correspondence course is now available. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered, click here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2004.
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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