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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, Number 5
Originally written for March 2, 2004, St. Chad: sow beans and peas!
Sent March 8, 2004, Strinennia

Contents

  • Welcome
  • March Calendar Up!
  • My Season: Accidental Wisdom
  • Living in Season: Confessions of a Tree Hugger
  • Holiday Packet: Eostre/Easter (Spring Equinox)
  • New: Sample Pages from Eostre
  • Signs of Spring
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome
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.

If a friend send you this newsletter, welcome! You can subscribe for free at my website: www.schooloftheseasons.com or by sending an email to:
livinginseason-subscribe@schooloftheseasons.com
We never rent, sell or give away subscriber information.

March Calendar Up!
The March calendar is up at my website. Look for information on how to celebrate the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries, the Ides of March, Red Wednesday, Mothering Sunday, and many more.

My Season: Accidental Wisdom
I was grateful for the outpouring of understanding and sympathy when I accidentally sent the last issue of the newsletter out 6 times.

I've been in a slump ever since January — wondering if I had anything to say or if anyone really cared. So that mistake turned out to be a blessing in disguise: Most of my 2,400 subscribers apparently took it in stride as one more aberration of the Internet and many of you sent me notes alerting me to the problem and telling me how much you appreciate the newsletter. One reader even read it 6 times.

My fervor for the newsletter is now revived. In the next few issues, I'll be asking for your ideas on how I can improve the School of the Seasons site and the newsletter. Thanks for accepting my mistakes with such equanimity and even enthusiasm.

The amusing irony is that after sending that last newsletter out six times each to my 2,400+ subscribers, I sent this latest edition out only to myself on March 2nd and just discovered the problem (a typo) this weekend.

Living in Season: Confessions of a Tree Hugger
I always feel faintly guilty when I hug a tree, furtive, embarrassed. Perhaps this is because the tree I usually hug is right outside the building where I teach writing classes on the University of Washington campus. What would my students think if they walked by and saw their teacher, her arms wrapped around the slender trunk, her nose pressed into the bark, her eyes closed in bliss? Maybe they'd see a tree-hugger, an epithet usually delivered with such scorn that even I cringe under the burden of feebleminded anthropomorphism.

Yet, since a tree is alive, passionately, vividly alive even in winter when its branches are bare, it should be obvious that hugging a tree brings the same benefits to the hugger as hugging a dog or a friend. I recently read a section on hugs in the book Passionate Marriage by David Scharch. He discusses the subtle ramifications of hugs, like the hug that goes on longer than you intended and makes you wonder about its meaning, the jolt that signals one person is ready to withdraw from a hug, or the melting into the hug hug.

No tree ever jolts or tries to withdraw when I hug it. Usually the greatest problem I experience is my slowing down to match the tempo of the tree. Sometimes I can't do it and turn away, disappointed. But most often, especially if I can get over my fear of being caught, I can relax. I close my eyes and sniff the delicate aroma of the bark, press my body against the trunk and try to sense within myself the slow rise of the sap. I breathe in and out slowly, imagining sinking roots deep into the ground with each inhale and branches reaching for the sky on each exhale.When the wind is stirring the branches of the tree I'm hugging, I can feel that movement shivering through the trunk. Despite being rooted to the ground, trees are in constant movement.

Tree-hugging opens the heart. When I've quieted to the place where I can feel the life force in the tree, the thrill of the sap, the quivering of the wind in the branches, I become aware of the pounding of my own heart and a feeling of love envelopes me, as if the tree wraps a spell of comfort around me. Sometimes I step away, shaken, as if awakening from a trance of green life reaching out for the stars at night.

I came to tree-hugging rather late in my life. I had a magic tree as a child, an old gnarled tree that grew beside the foundations of an abandoned house, and I used to touch the tree for luck on my way to grade school. Later, during the most miserable year in my life, my first year away from home attending Reed College, I adopted a slender birch sapling that grew beside the path between my dorm and the classrooms. Every time I passed, I pressed my fingers to its cool bark, deriving some obscure comfort from this contact.

I'll never forget the jolt I experienced the afternoon I touched the same tree while very stoned. The tree was alive! I pulled my fingers back as if burnt but reached out to touch it again, my cells lighting up with pleasure as I sensed the subtle flow of the sap under the cool bark. That was the first tree I ever hugged.

Since then I have hugged many trees. I still prefer birches but my favorite tree on the UW campus is a black locust. I was happy to learn, when a friend finally identified it for me, that black locusts are considered magical by the local indigenous people. My other revelatory tree encounter occurred with an apple tree during a solitary retreat at the Whidbey Institute. I had always heard that apples were the trees of love, but to me this was an intellectual concept, until I walked into the garden and into the radius of this old apple tree. Suddenly I was surrounded by a delicious feeling of joy and lightness that was irresistible. Ellen Evert Hopman in her book on Tree Magic writes that apples "thrive on human companionship and feel their best when petted and pruned." I certainly felt that with this apple tree, that had been lovingly tended for decades. The same could not be said for the malevolent crab-apple tree that grew in the backyard of my childhood home.

After reading an early draft of this essay to my writing group, I discovered that many people have never hugged a tree. So here are a few instructions if you are interested in trying.

  1. If you are at all self-conscious, pick a tree and a place where you will not be observed. Choose a tree that you can wrap your arms around comfortably.
  2. Inspect the bark carefully, for leaking sap and insects.
  3. Put your arms around the trunk and press your body against the tree, particularly along the left side, where your heart is.
  4. Sniff the bark delicately, the way you would your lover's neck.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Breathe slowly and deeply. If you like, imagine sinking roots into the ground and pressing branches up into the sky.
  7. Continue until you sense the life in the tree. It may come as an awareness of the sap rising or a sense that your heartbeat is being met by another, as when lying with a lover.
  8. If this doesn't work, open your eyes, and look up at the branches. Allow your vision to take you along those branches and feel the energy of the tree reaching up into the sky.

For those of you who are veteran tree-huggers, I'd be curious to hear which trees you prefer to hug, and how hugs differ from tree to tree.

Resources:
Schnarch, David, Passionate Marriage, Henry Holt 1998

In my Library: Tree Lore
Of course, for lore about trees there is nothing quite like Robert Graves in The White Goddess. Robert Graves is one of my favorite scholars. I love the creative ways he combines the tidbits of folklore, poetry and mythology that he assembles. I don't always trust his conclusions but I like the imagination that fuels them. He has two chapters in which he spells out the folklore associated with the Celtic tree-alphabet.

I believe Graves was the first to correlate the trees with the months of the Celtic calendar. Since then, this has become the basis for a calendar-the very lovely Lunar Calendar developed by Nancy Passmore — and a divination system: The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray and illustrated by Vanessa Card. I love the beautiful, woodcut-like illustrations, and the book contains a nice concise summary of the folklore of each tree, but I haven't used this much as a divination tool.

Graves, Robert, The White Goddess, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1948
Hopman, Ellen Evert, Tree Medicine, Tree Magic, Phoenix Publishing 1991
Murray, Liz and Colin, The Celtic Tree Oracle, illustrated by Vanessa Card, Thomas Dunne books, St. Martin's Press 1988
Passmore, Nancy, The Lunar Calendar, Luna Press 2004, www.thelunapress.com

Holiday Packet: Eostre/Easter
It's time to order the Eostre packet which contains ideas for celebrating Spring Equinox, Nawruz and St. Joseph's Day (all coincide on March 19th this year). You can also reuse these ideas in April during Passover and Easter Sunday.

This illustrated portfolio contains 50 pages of ideas for celebrating the joyous mid-spring feast also known as Nawruz, Easter, Passover, St. Joseph's Day, Spring Equinox and Hilaria. It tells you how to:

  • Make tansy pies, hot cross buns and other traditional Eostre foods
  • Decorate eggs the Ukrainian way, using symbol and ritual
  • Use food items and plants to create natural dyes
  • Play traditional games like cracking eggs, egg rolling and pace egging
  • And much more.

$9.00 + $3 shipping/handling. Please allow 10 days for delivery. An email version is also available for $7. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours. Order in our Store.

New: Sample Pages from Eostre
I've reproduced the pages on the sacred meaning of dyed eggs, and on my Ukrainian egg decorating ritual from the Eostre packet as free samples on the website. You can download them here.

Signs of Spring
Two signs of spring arrived from England this week: Jaihn in London is observing the fattening buds on the rowan tree and silver birch outside her window. While Trish in Reading notices the catkins on the birch, the flowering yellow gorse, and the faint haze of green on the willows. She says it's been a bumper year for crocus (I've noted the same phenomenon in Seattle) and although she hasn't seen a lamb yet, the ewes look ready to pop.

If you've noticed any signs of the season where you live, send them to me and I will post them on my website. See what others have posted here.

Copyright
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.

Getting On and Off the List
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