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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 4
March 15. 2004
The Ides of March


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Summer in Seattle
  • Living in Season: Mercury Retrograde
  • On the Web: Making Magical Eggs
  • Holiday Packet: Spring Equinox/Eostre Packet
  • Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
  • 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: Summer in Seattle
A few weeks ago I started noticing the fragrance I associate with summer. The sweet, pure fragrances of spring were being replaced with the musty, fusty smell that comes with Summer. On Sunday, March 12, I spotted — and stooped to smell — my first bearded iris, one of the old-fashioned purple kinds. Ah! Now that is a heavenly aroma, one of my favorites: all violet, sugar and vanilla.

When I relayed this story at a housewarming party I attended, one of the women present who runs the local farmers markets said that everything is six weeks early: cherries, peaches, tomatoes, lettuce. We all wondered what this would mean for the end of the summer while we looked forward to the early arrival of vegetables and fruits we usually don’t taste until late summer.

I wonder if it is Spring where you are, and how that smells?

Blessings of the scents of spring,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Living in Season: Mercury Retrograde
My friend Noelle asked me to write about Mercury retrograde since it’s the theme of many of my discussions with my writing buddies. I am not an astrologer, so my understanding of this planetary transit is limited, but as someone who values “time off” periods, noticing Mercury retrograde is an important part of my calendar work (although I note I didn’t put it on the March calendar).

Here’s how it works: Two or three times a year, the planet Mercury appears to move backward, from our perspective on earth. I can’t tell you if this is actually visible in the sky, as I rarely see Mercury (one of the disadvantages of living in a big city where light pollution clouds the night sky — and in Seattle, we often have clouds as well). An old encyclopedia of astrology explained the apparent retrograde motion of the planets (which can’t really move backwards) by comparing it that illusion you sometimes get when you’re looking out the window of a fast train and seeing the slower train on a parallel track which appears to be moving backwards.

For astrologers, this backwards motion is called “retrograde” and indicates that there may be some glitches in the areas governed by the planet Mercury, particularly transportation and communication. I don’t expect things to go smoothly while Mercury is retrograde and, perhaps because of this expectation, I often find evidence to support this notion. In April of 2004, when Mercury was retrograde, my car overheated and a spambot sent infected attachments of my entire mailing list. At the time, my web host was out of town so we basically shut down the list for several days before he came back and set up new controls to prevent this from happening again. During the last Mercury retrograde in December, my computer slowed to a crawl under an onslaught of spyware and adware. Granted, these things happen all the time, but the repercussions were most noticeable during the retrograde periods.

Some astrologers issue stern warnings about Mercury retrograde. You are advised not to sign contracts, not to send out promotional materials, not to open a new business, not to make major purchases. If you’re traveling, expect delays. Communications break down including misplaced messages, lost packages, missed appointments, phones breaking and people misunderstanding what you said.

Other astrologers take a more gentle approach, counseling you to take it easy during Mercury retrograde. Schedule more down time. Expect to get less done. Allow for delays. Review, reflect and research instead of starting something new. Sometimes people or things from the past return. Often, when you treat this transit with respect, you will find that Mercury retrograde is a productive time, rather than a total loss.

For years, I’ve been using Mercury retrograde as a reminder to take care of essential business. I just sent out a proposal for a book on Slow Time to an editor at Conari/Red Wheel/Weiser. Knowing that Mercury was about to go retrograde and would stay there for six weeks gave me the extra push I needed to complete the work. I’ll take the next six weeks to revise the manuscript so it’s in good condition if and when she asks to see it. I know I should back up my computer daily or weekly, but I don’t always do that. I do always back it up before Mercury goes retrograde.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because Mercury is about to go retrograde on March 19th. In fact, you may have already noticed the effects as early as March 5th (that’s because Mercury will move back to the place it was on March 5th before moving forward again). Although Mercury begins moving forward (going direct) on April 12th, the effects may linger as it retraces its trajectory across the sky and doesn’t reach new territory until April 30th.

The effects of Mercury retrograde are affected by the sign in which it occurs and also by where Mercury is placed in your birth chart. This Mercury retrograde is in Aries, the sign associated with rashness, assertiveness and taking action. You may find yourself speaking out, saying something you later regret or committing too quickly to a new project, without getting all the facts.

Mercury will also go retrograde in July and November. You may start to feel the effects of the July retrograde (which is in Leo) as early as July 4 but the retrograde motion officially begins July 22 and ends August 14, although the effects may linger until August 29. The November retrograde begins on November 13 when Mercury is in Sagittarius, but it will be tracing its steps all the way back to where it was in Virgo on October 26, so you may notice some slowing down then. It will start to go forward again on December 3 and finally emerge from the territory which it’s been revisiting on December 21, just in time for Winter Solstice.

For an amusing article on one astrologer’s experiences with Mercury retrograde see this light-hearted article about appliances gone amok by astrologer April Elliott Kent.

The explanation of retrograde motions comes from
deVore, Nicholas, Encyclopedia of Astrology, Philosophical Library, 1947

On the Web: Making Magical Eggs
While looking for good web sites to explain the process of making Ukrainian Easter eggs for the students in the Spring online course, I found some wonderful resources that I wanted to share with all of you who enjoy decorating eggs for Easter or Spring Equinox.

I first learned to make the magical Ukrainian Easter Eggs known as pysanky from the wonderful books written by Anne Kmit, Loretta and Johanna Luciow and Luba Perchyshyn who own the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Minneapolis. You can order supplies from them at this website:

Also see the lovely pages on making pysanky, including symbols and colors and a featured egg design at:

Artist Ann Morash of Nova Scotia provides detailed instructions for making Pysanky:

She also lists places to buy supplies:

And provides step-by-step instructions for creating simple and advanced designs:

Here’s another great tutorial, complete with photographs:

For those of you who don’t have the special tools needed to make pysanky, you might be inspired by the sophisticated patterns shown at this website which were made using the simple technique of dipping a pin into wax:

For inspiration or just amazement, check out the stunning examples of pysanky from the Kolomiya Museum of Hutsul Folk Art

View an artist’s variations on this traditional craft:

And no feature on decorating eggs for Easter could be complete without referring to the Queen of Seasonal Crafts, that is Martha Stewart, whose web page showcases several suggestions including marbleizing eggs, glittered eggs (very classy), stenciled eggs and various imaginative ways to display them. Click here for Martha's eggs.

Don’t have time to make an egg at all? Here’s a virtual egg decorating site, designed for children:

This site also has egg designs that can be printed to be used for coloring.

Holiday Packet: Spring Equinox/Eostre
It's definitely time to order the Eostre packet. 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.

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 this free PDF file here.

The print version is $14; please allow 10 days for delivery. An email version is also available for $9. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours. Order here.

Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
It’s not too late to order the Calendar Companion, the latest offering from School of the Seasons. This is a graceful way to incorporate spirit and seasons into your life. Use it along with your usual planning tools and calendar to help you:

  • Slow time down
  • Consult your soul while creating your schedule
  • Make time for what's truly important in your life
  • Move in rhythm with the seasons and the moon

Every week for 52 weeks you will receive a brief email with a reflection on the qualities of the present time period and one suggestion, task or question that you can savor throughout the week.

Start whenever you like. When you order the Calendar Companion, you will receive the next week's calendar companion, along with an introductory email.

$20 for a year's worth of gentle reminders to help you stay aligned with natural rhythms. Click here to order or to see a sample reflection.

Signs of Spring
It’s not spring in Poland where Natalia says the snow finally arrived in mid-January and seems to be staying for good. “It is now knee-deep and powdery and more keeps falling.” She asks the fruiterers “when the first spring vegetables will arrive and they take a pointed look outside, as if to ask, and where have you been all your life. (America, I would answer.) Sorrel, I ask. Radishes. Chives. And they say, perhaps another month.” So she is still eating parsnips and apples and cabbage and occasionally baking “a loaf of dense sourdough bread to go with a warming soup. In the kitchen and in the open air, spring is deferred. And I'm the only one who can't believe it.”

But it is spring in Stockton, California where Synnoveah is listening to the birds chiriping outside of her window. She writes: “The tulips are reaching up out of the earth to try to touch the sky, and the buds of the freesias and day lilies grow heavier each day, just waiting to burst forth and give birth to new blooms.”

Dee from Phoenix, Arizona, says that “the wildflowers are going *nuts*! We've had alot of rain this January & February, so everything is green. It looks a little strange. ;-). I mowed my yard a week ago and it was so odd – there was dried grass in patches that needed air and then there were "weeds" several feet high! Also, our patio arbor is filled with purple flowers - and bees. ;-)”

Meanwhile in Seattle Summer is already here, overlapping with Spring. Today while riding home from the University on the bus I wrote down every plant and tree I saw in bloom: daffodils, forsythia, quince, cherry trees, pear trees, broom, hawthorn, camellias, rhododendrons, irises, privets, clematis, hostas, magnolias, and a number of plants whose names I don’t know. What a welter of fragrances and colors. I’ve never seen such a jumble.

There are more lovely descriptions of spring here.

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.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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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