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Living in Season from Waverly Fitzgerald

Living in Season
The official newsletter of School of the Seasons

December 3, 2008

Contents

Welcome
Inspirational Quote
December Calendar Update
My Season: Endings and Beginnings
Thanks to You
New Year Offerings:
-- French Republican Calendar
-- Natural Planner Workbooks
End of the Year Classes
-- Twelve Days of Christmas
-- New Years Dreams Class
Living in Season: Waiting
Advent Offerings:
-- Advent Sunwheel
-- Thirteen Christmas Cookies
Holiday Packet: Yule
Christmas Cookie Recipe: Stag’s Antlers
Signs of WinterCopyright
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Welcome

Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life.

Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it. If a friend sent you this newsletter, welcome! You can subscribe for free at my website:
www.schooloftheseasons.com

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Inspirational Quote

I would [like to] improve every opportunity to wonder and worship as a sunflower welcomes the light. The more thrilling, wonderful, divine objects I behold in a day, the more expanded and immortal I become.

—Thoreau

December Calendar Update

I love December. Almost every day is rich with traditions and if you can find an occasional day off, you might welcome it as a chance for quiet and rest. Learn more about the traditions surrounding St Nick, Saturnalia, Halcyon Days, Santa Lucia, Epona, Our Lady of Solitude, Hertha, Hanukkah, Rohanitza, Boxing Day and many others on our December calendar.

My Season: News of New

I’m already feeling the delicious tide of transition that I celebrate at the end of the year.

Every year I spend the twelve days after Christmas looking back over the past year (this year you can join me if you sign up for the Twelve Days of Christmas class) and I spend the month of January dreaming about and planning for the possibilities of the New Year (also a class you can take called New Year Dreams).

At the start of each new year, I distill my hopes and dreams in to a few themes. In 2007, two of my themes were launching my daughter and finding a place to call home. In the past two weeks, I’ve realized both have been realized, and neither through my own efforts. That’s not entirely true—I did take steps to achieve both, but the solutions and offers came from unexpected directions. In November, friends invited me to join them in settling on rural land we will buy collectively in two years (just the thought of that deadline is motivating me to cherish and make good use of every minute of my time in my beloved city of Seattle) and my daughter, following a dramatic meltdown in March, has found her own equilibrium and is moving forward in her life.

In fact, I am delighted to be working with her—she is my new virtual assistant, so if you order from School of the Seasons, you will probably hear from Shaw. She also has created her own web site: an Etsy shop where she is starting to sell her crafts. Right now you can buy her hand-knitted scarves and cute cat hats (I love mine) and she will be adding more items soon. You can visit her shop at:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6421845

Among my plans for the new year are new possibilities for the School of the Seasons. I’m happy to offer new calendar products (see below). And I’m also ready to launch the Living in Season magazine I’ve been promising for years, probably around Spring Equinox. My hope is that it will offer a more interactive way to relate to the School of the Seasons and create a sense of community.

Of course, endings precede beginnings. I’ve decided to retire the much loved holiday calendar, after realizing that most of the holiday information I collected for so many years [you should see my library—some day I’ll post it on Library Thing, my new addiction] is now easily accessibly online. This hit me when I was reading about St. George’s Day on Wikipedia (my favorite online resource). This December calendar is probably the last calendar that I will update. The calendars will remain up but in a more static format.

I also expect to publish my more personal reflections on the seasons at my blog
www.livinginseason.blogspot.com
and reserve the newsletter for more formal announcements. But I’m still feeling my way through this transition.

I always give myself until the end of January to figure out my dreams for the New Year. I like to move slowly in the winter. And I like to wait when I have a decision to make until I am sure it feels right. So I will emerge in spring with new ideas for School of the Seasons.

Many blessings of hibernation,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Thanks to You!

Haven’t made the New York Times bestseller list yet, but my Slow Time book has now sold over 500 copies, which makes it a bestseller at Lulu.com.

Thanks to those of you who bought books during the last few months. It’s a good time to order a copy if you want one for yourself or someone you know who needs more time in the new year:
http://www.lulu.com/content/1251343

Angie Kritenbrink just wrote a great review of Slow Time at Small Pressures, her blog about books published by small presses:
http://smallpressures.blogspot.com/

If you’re reading the book the slow way, please note that I will post the eleventh chapter “Dancing with the Stars,” on the Slow Time book website on December 5. Which means you have a few days to download the tenth chapter, “Holy Days and Holidays,” if you don’t have it already. The twelfth chapter will go up on February 1, marking the end of the slow publication of the book.

By the way, I’m looking for new ways to teach Slow Time. If you’ve been downloading the chapters and working through the exercises one month at a time, I’d like to hear how that’s working for you. I’m considering teaching a Slow Slow Time class over a whole year in 2009 but I’m curious about whether that will work or not.

New Year Offerings

French Republican Wall Calendar

In 1793, the French replaced the old calendar, tainted with irrational religious holidays, with a new rational calendar. The months were named after natural phenomena (Winter consists of Foggy, Frosty and Snowy), and each day was dedicated to a plant, animal or tool. I’ve been using this calendar for two years, and I’m delighted by the way the plants in the calendar show up in my life. I’m pleased that a calendar created two centuries ago in France matches so well with the seasonal changes I experience in Seattle in the 21st century.

The wall calendar I’ve created for 2009 is divided into the Gregorian calendar months (of January, etc.) but is illustrated with stunning photographs of seasonal landscapes that correspond with the FRC themes and shows the items to honor on each day.

This year’s calendar features the work of free-lance photographer, Catherine Kerr, who records the seasonal changes in the landscape where she lives: the eastern Ontario highlands. You can appreciate her talent even more by viewing her blog:
http://kerrdelune.blogspot.com

Click here to view sample pages from last year’s calendar:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/pdfdocs/french-cal-sample.pdf

The print-version of the calendar costs $17 which includes shipping. You can also download a copy for $10. This would make a great present for friends who love the seasons and the natural world. Order through our Store.

The Natural Planner

Thanks to the brave pioneers who signed up for the Natural Planning Journal last year, I’ve developed a better understanding of how to help you discern your goals, dreams and themes for the year, and pursue them through the year. The Journal has become a series of e-books, which are workbooks providing you with questions, exercises, suggestions and pages you can use to follow your dreams.

New Years Wishes E-Book $15
This introductory workbook helps you discern your goals, themes and dreams for the year ahead, and can be used as way to plan your course through the year at whatever time of the year you want to set course. Most of my readers use this at the start of the calendar year but you might prefer to use it at the start of spring or on your birthday.

Spring Natural Planner E-Book $15
Features questions about how you might use the energy of Spring to grow your plans, plus pages you can use for planning including four spring months (February, March, April and May) and the Spring lunar cycles. Arrives by email in January.

Summer Natural Planner E-Book $15
Features questions about how you might use the energy of Summer to expand your dreams for the year, plus pages you can use for planning including four summer months (May, June, July and August) and the Summer lunar cycles. Arrives by email in April.

Autumn Natural Planner E-Book $15
Features questions about how you might use the energy of Autumn to reflect on your harvest, plus pages you can use for planning including four Autumn months (August, September, October and November) and the Autumn lunar cycles. Arrives by email in July.
Winter Natural Planner E-Book $15
Features questions about how you might use the energy of Winter to review and dream about your goals for the year, plus pages you can use for planning including four Winter months (November, December, January and February) and the Winter lunar cycles. Arrives by email in October.

2009 Natural Planner E-Book $60
All of the above. You will receive the New Year Wishes E-Book first, and then the appropriate seasonal planner, until a year has been completed. Order through our Store.

End of the Year Classes

I love my end-of-the-year rituals and this year I am happy to be able to share them with you through two on-line classes.

Twelve Days of Christmas (December 26-January 6)
Every year I do a reflection on the past year during the Twelve Days of Christmas. You can learn about this process by ordering the 12 Days of Christmas book (see below). Or you can join me for the online class. I will give you assignments for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, ways to reflect on the year past by focusing on certain aspects of your life, for instance, memorable books read, social events, spiritual insights and accomplishments. At the same time, you will flag ideas and dreams you want to carry forward into the new year. You will have the opportunity to share your work with me and with other students via email.

This class will require about an hour of homework for each of the Twelve Days from December 26 through January 6. Students who want to do a thorough review or a creative expression of each day may want to devote even more time to the reflection process.

$40 for the 12-day class. You can register here.

New Year Dreams (January 7 through 28)
This four-week online class will follow the format which is also available in the New Year Dreams workbook (see above). The class provides more community and greater accountability. It’s easy to get stuck or stay on a superficial level when you’re working through exercises on your own. The structure of the class will encourage you to go deeper.

For four weeks you will receive a weekly assignment related to wishing, discerning your dreams, aligning your goals with time and making a formal pledge to the year and be given the opportunity to report on what you learned in carrying out that assignment. You will also have the opportunity to get feedback and ideas from me and other students in the class via email.

$40 for the 4-week class. You can register here.

Living in Season: Waiting

[reprint from 2004]

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.

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 long dark 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.

Christmas Cookie Recipe: Stag’s Antlers

From Thirteen Christmas Cookies
My book available at the School of the Seasons store

Helen Farias writes about a winter goddess of the north, Rohanitza, who is the mother of the deer and is often portrayed with horns. Her feast day was celebrated in late December when white-iced cookies shaped like deer were given as presents or good luck tokens.

These are not those cookies but I like to make these in her honor. This is one of my favorite cookie recipes because of the flavor (of the cardamom) and the oddity of the traditional shape, which bears little resemblance to a stag. Sometimes I use my reindeer cookie cutter to shape the cookies like deer but I always make most of the cookies in a traditional manner.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 cup heavy sweet cream
1 tsp powdered cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and whole egg. Add cream, cardamom, salt and cinnamon. Sift flour with baking soda and cornstarch and resift into butter mixture. Blend thoroughly.

Roll dough out on lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into two strips, 2 inches long by 1 inch wide. Make a slit on each end of the strip, about 1/4 inch from the end, cutting down a little more than half of the strip. Curve to open the slits. Place on a buttered baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 15 minutes to until pale golden brown. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen.

Holiday Packets: Advent Offerings

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
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/advent.html

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:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/store.html

$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:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/store.html

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

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.

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:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/pdfdocs/yulelights.pdf

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 at:
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/store.html

Signs of Winter

As I always do at this time of the year, I’m enjoying the bright beauty of the berries and writing about them at my blog:
www.livinginseason.blogspot.com

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

Copyright

Copyright © Waverly Fitzgerald 2008
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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