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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, number 3
February 2, 2004, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Light in the Darkness
  • February Calendar Up!
  • Living in Season: What Season Are You?
  • From the Library: the Top Ten: Books of Holiday Folklore
  • Requests for Spring Festivals
  • Signs of Spring
  • 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: Light in the Darkness
If a groundhog had emerged from its burrow in Seattle (as far as I know there are no groundhogs in Seattle), it would not have seen its shadow, for the sun has been muffled all morning by soft, gray rain clouds. So the good news is that Spring is here. At least in Seattle.

I hope that's true for my 26-year-old daughter, Shaw, who's been in a dark place this winter, suffering from depression. She hasn't even had the energy to plug in the light I bought her last Christmas, which seemed to have a beneficial effect. I know she's not the only one who's feeling hopeless. Seasonal affective disorder seems to be a modern malady, born out of our alienation from natural time.

Bernd Heinrich (whose books on raven, owls and winter I've been raving about) touches on this subject in an article entitled "Hibernation, Insulation and Caffeination" in a recent issue of the New York Times. After reviewing the many strategies animals employ to get through the winter, Heinrich suggests it might be adaptive for human beings to spend most of the winter sleeping, or developing insulation in the form of a layer of fat.

Here's a link to the article.
If you are not already registered with the New York Times, you will have to register but the service is free.

This Candlemas, may light shine in the darkness for you and those you love.

February Calendar Up!
Lent begins early this year so there's a wealth of holidays in February, including Tu B'Shevat, one of my favorite Jewish holidays, Valentine's Day, the Needle Memorial, Mardi Gras, the Butter Festival, plus, of course, Leap Year Day. Look for descriptions of these and many more!

Living in Season: What Season Are You?
In the early 1980's a book appeared which categorized people by season and then prescribed the appropriate colors for each season to wear. This was an exciting concept and for many years it was quite common to talk to people and hear them declare, "I could never wear that. I'm a Winter." (After many years of thinking I was a Winter, I finally had my colors done by a color consultant and found out I was an Autumn. It took me a while but I finally grudgingly accepted this was true. And it makes a certain sort of sense since Autumn is my favorite season.)

Think about your favorite season. If you're like most of the students in my classes on seasonal holidays, you prefer the season of your birth. Perhaps it's like a homing instinct. Born to a particular season, you feel most comfortable with that energy. I was born in September and I always feel energized in autumn, ready to tackle big projects. It's like a new year every time autumn rolls around.

There are also seasons which are difficult. In my classes, I've found that most people prefer spring and autumn to summer and winter. I believe that's because spring and autumn are transition months, and we like the driving energy of change and movement, rather than the more static energy of winter and summer.

Often the affinity you feel for a season has more to do with the match in your energy. I imagine that people who love summer are more sociable, more impulsive and more outdoor-oriented than me. I find the scattered energy and lack of structure in summer disorienting. I prefer the quiet, more domestic focus of winter.

And according to Chinese medicine I am a Winter (so I finally get to be a Winter-just not in my wardrobe). Chinese medicine categorizes people by season, based on personality types and body organs. Someone with Spring Illness will have a harder time in Spring when the liver and endocrine systems are stressed. If you always get sick during a certain season, you might want to read a book on Chinese medicine or consult a practitioner. Problems are alleviated by bringing the body back into balance, which often involves eating seasonal foods (for instance, eating spring greens helps alleviate Spring Illness).

Anniversary dates can also affect your alignment with the seasons. During my classes, I ask my students to draw a wheel representing the year, marked off with the months. Then I ask them to mark significant events in their lives on that wheel: birthdays, deaths, traumas, the birth of new love, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the start of a new project, a big achievement, a move. If you notice a pattern, especially of trauma or loss, at a particular time of the year, you can plan ahead to build a nest of comfort for yourself around this time.

Becoming aware of these cycles and the emotional undercurrents of significant dates allows you to move smoothly through the year and be aware of points of potential trouble and opportunity.

These patterns can change over time, as you accumulate experiences with the seasons. A time that was once stressful, like the winter holidays, can be reclaimed with new traditions. And your affinity for a season may shift depending on where you are in other cycles of your life. Perhaps the energy of spring complements your mood one year because you are starting a new job or new relationship. But another year when you are dealing with loss, spring may be painful and you prefer the quieter, more contemplative side of autumn.

As you step into the flow of this particular round of seasons, plan your life so you can sail smoothly around the obstacles and be ready to relax
during the times of ease.

Beinfeld, Harriet and Efrem Korngold, Between Heaven and Earth, Ballantine 1991
A great book on Chinese medicine which also helped me identify which hours of the day were my prime hours.

From the Library: The Top Ten: Books of Holiday Folklore
In honor of all the top ten lists for the year, I decided to create my Top Ten List of Holiday Folklore books. Some I've already reviewed in this newsletter:

Kightly, Charles, Perpetual Almanack of Days, Thames & Hudson 1989

This book, a gift from a friend who recognized my obsession, was the first in my collection, which is probably why it's the first to spring to mind. This collection of English calendar customs includes folk sayings, quotes from ancient almanacs and reproductions of old engravings.

Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press, 1982

The definitive book of Jewish holidays in my mind. I love his attitude: he connects the Jewish holidays to their pagan roots and suggests ways to make them meaningful in modern times.

Nelson, Gertrud Mueller, To Dance With God, Paulist Press, 1986

The definitive book on Catholic holidays, in my mind. Nelson understands the seasonal roots of the Catholic liturgy and shares delightful ideas for incorporating ritual into family life.

The Folklore of World Holidays, Margaret Read MacDonald, Gale Research 1992

I received this book as a gift this Christmas and found out that the author works only a few miles away from me at the King County library. I hope to meet her some day and express my appreciation for her work. She compiled excerpts from various books on holidays all over the world and organized them into a calendar. This has its problems (she puts the moveable feasts at the approximate time they fall and the Islamic holidays where they fell during the year she was working) but it's still a rich resource, especially for world holidays (most other holiday books focus on Europe).

The Oxford Companion to the Year, Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford University Press 1999

I see looking at the frontispiece of this book that it was my 50th birthday present to myself, and what a good one. The authors solve the problem of including all holidays by first listing holidays attached to a particular date, then discuss other time-related celebrations by season, month, day, liturgical calendar and culture. This is also a great source for information on the calendar and how it developed over time. Utterly comprehensive but a bit dry.

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology & Legend edited by Maria Leach, Harper & Row 1984

I have the paperback version of this fabulous resource. You could get lost reading this book-and I often did during my lonely days as a sophomore at Reed College. You always find something you didn't expect while you're paging through to look for something else. Juicy and fascinating. Organized by topic (which is often frustrating).

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book: Harper San Francisco 1994

Along with Kightly, this is one of the books I consult frequently. Rufus lists a holiday for every day (the problem with this format is that some holidays are silly and some important golidays (including the movable/lunar ones) get short shrift but she's got unusual and detailed customs (unfortunately uncredited) and a delightful package-whimsical drawings and wry text.

Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy. William Morrow

My favorite food/holiday book. Field focuses on the foods served in Italy at traditional festivals. Organized by seasons, the text captures the flavor and meaning of each turn of the year. The recipes are often complicated but the folklore is impeccable and the book is beautifully illustrated with old engravings.

Luard, Elisabeth, Sacred Food. Chicago Review Press, 2001 (a paperback version is schedule for April 2004!)

Looks at holiday lore as preserved in the most primitive foods of the culture. You feel that by using these recipes you will be participating in traditions handed down over centuries. It's clear that Luard collected her recipes by talking to and cooking with the indigenous people-the villagers, not the professional chefs or the folklorists.

Spicer, Gladys Dorothy, The Book of Festivals. Reprinted by Gale Research 1979

Spicer was evidently one of that peculiar breed: the amateur folklorist (I
guess I might include myself here, except I'm more of a passionate scholar). In the 1940's she wrote several books on holidays but this is the best-a collection of calendar customs organized by nationality, with a heavy emphasis on Europe. Probably my richest source of information. Although it's not clear where some of her speculations come from, she's never steered me wrong.

Mything Links, www.mythinglinks.org

My other favorite holiday resource has to be the amazing website created by Kathleen Jenks, which provides resources for the exploration of myths around the world. It's beautiful, it's comprehensive, and it's annotated with Kathleen's intelligent and always enthusiastic reactions to the web sites and articles she reviews.

Request for Spring Festivals
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Stutz, a science and nature writer, who's currently working on a book about Spring for Scribners. He came to Seattle to attend the national meterologists convention to ask them about the weather conditions associated with Spring. He plans to travel around the country for the next several months, attending events and festivals like the Ramps Festival in Cosby, Tennessee. If you know of any festivals or unique natural events that are emblematic of spring where you live, let him know by writing to him at bruce@brucestutz.com

Signs of Spring
I was wrong. Those weren't tulips that were coming up in the front bed of my apartment building, but daffodils. I can now see the faint line of yellow at the edge of the swollen buds.

Thanks to Lisa, I now know the first cardinal sang in southeast Michigan on January 17th. If you've noticed any signs of the season, send them to me and I will post them on my website. See what others have posted here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
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