Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 10
June 30, 2005
- My Season: Midsummer's Night's Eve
- Update: July Calendar Posted
- Flower of the Month: the Lotus
- Living in Season: Old-Fashioned Fourth of July
- Recipes for Summer Solstice: Strawberries
- Holiday Packet: Lammas/Lughnasad
- Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
- Personal Appearances: Take Back Your Time Workshop
- Signs of Summer
- 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: Midsummer's Night's Eve
I believe that the holidays are magical moments in time, intersections of the sacred and the mundane, each one a special nexus like a sacred site you might find in the landscape. Sometimes I celebrate by creating a ritual that reflects the themes and symbols I see in the holiday. But other times, I just let them happen to me.
That's what I did this summer solstice. One of my favorite little local cafes invited me to a wine tasting called La Fete des Fous to be held on Midsummer's Night's Eve. Although I was nervous about attending such an event alone, I couldn't resist the title and the date. I walked to the café through the sweet-smelling summer evening, entered a room full of strangers and a few hours later, I had made several friends and indulged in a nice flirtation. Several of my new friends (one of whom knew my daughter) were going out to a bar to celebrate a birthday and although I would normally have gone home at this point, I decided to follow the Midsummer energy and see what developed.
It was the eve of Gay Pride weekend and all the bars were crowded and the streets were full of lovers walking hand in hand. At the new place, my daughter ran into a trombone player she knows from her singing gigs who began flirting with the other woman in the party who was really more interested in one of the other guys. Towards the end of the evening, the whole party moved to another nearby bar (because my daughter had promised to meet someone there who never showed up) and instead she ran into her lover who she had broken up with two weeks earlier and they had a chance to talk and reconcile. The flirtations, the misunderstandings, the pursuits, the unexpected encounters, the missed opportunities, etc it was so much like the Shakespeare play it seemed scripted. I went home enchanted, totally believing in the magic of this evening.
So was it really a magical moment in time, a night when romance was in the air? Or did my belief that something marvelous might happen seduce me into exploring opportunities and meeting people I normally would have passed by? I'm not sure it really matters, because either way it's magic and it works.
Blessings of magical time,
Update: July Calendar Up!
The July calendar is posted and ripe with holidays like Vardavar, the Lotus Moon, the Obon festival, Adonia and Ice Cream Day (which will be featured in the next newsletter).
Flower of the Month: The Lotus
July 6 is the date of the Lotus Moon and the day when people in Peking used to go out in boats to admire the lotuses floating on the lakes of the Winter Palace. For more about this magical flower of the month, see my article on the lotus at:
Living in Season: Old-Fashioned Fourth of July
I had so much fun writing about my memories of childhood May Days that I thought I would wax nostalgic again about Fourth of July, although it's never been my favorite holiday.
Unlike Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve, it doesn't seem like a romantic holiday, but I always feel sad if I'm not snuggled up with a lover while watching the fireworks. (Dave Alvin captures this melancholy quality so well in his song, Fourth of July, in which the narrator pleads with his girl-friend to dry her eyes and come out and watch the fireworks with him.)
I'm also sometimes irritated by the hyper patriotism. Then I remind myself that just as the Christians found the Winter Solstice a suitable time for celebrating the birth of the miraculous Sun, complete with all the symbols of rebirth and light in the darkness, so did Americans decide that Summer Solstice was the appropriate time for celebrating the birth of a nation, and adopted many of the traditional customs (gatherings around bonfires, picnic feasts outdoors and blazing, revolving fires) into the celebration.
Surprisingly, my most vivid memories of Fourth of July don't include any fireworks. When I was about twelve years old, my parents became members of the Lake Elizabeth Ranch Club, which is where we spent every Fourth of July for the next several years, joined by my grandmother (my father's mother) and my Aunt Catherine (my father's sister) and her daughter Mary Kay.
The club was located in the middle of the desert, hours away from our suburban home in the San Fernando Valley, and the trip there involved a long tedious drive along narrow roads that bisected an empty desert landscape that seemed as lifeless as the moon. There was no vegetation, just beige sand and shimmering mirages of water that appeared in low spots on the road. We could spot the big trees planted as a windbreak around the club from miles away and cheered for the end of our long journey, as we pulled into the dirt parking lot, in a cloud of red dust.
I could appreciate the attractions of the club they had (rather dispirited) horses we could ride through the low sagebrush studded hills and an Olympic size swimming pool, that glittered like a turquoise jewel under the desert sun. It was always full of shrieking kids and the white concrete around it was so hot you had to step only in the places where water had spilled over the edges or else you would burn the soles of your feet.
Although the club served dinner in the club house, we always brought our own food. After an afternoon of swimming and riding, the adults would spread red-and-white checked tablecloths on the picnic tables under the mulberry trees at the edge of the property. The squishy berries would fall onto the table as we feasted on fried chicken, watermelon, ice cream (which had to be kept cold in foam coolers filled with blocks of blue ice) and other Fourth of July favorites. I suppose there were fireworks but I don't remember them. Perhaps they weren't allowed because of the danger of fire in the dry desert setting.
It struck me as odd that we would come so far, through such a hostile environment, at the hottest time of the year, to celebrate Fourth of July. Especially when contrasted with the way we had previously observed the holiday by going to the local park, Reseda Park, where we could spread out a blanket under the trees and watch fire works, surrounded by other families and the smell of BBQ smoke.
It was only years later, when I was doing research on my father's childhood and reading old newspapers from the 1920's in Bison, South Dakota that I understood. My grandparents had homesteaded in the barren prairie lands of Perkins County where they were unable to scratch a living from the land. Fourth of July was the big holiday of the year, discussed for weeks ahead and weeks afterwards, in the newspapers, a time when everyone gathered. My grandparents and their children, my dad and his sister Catherine, would probably have driven into town on dirt roads under a hot sun through a bleak, brown landscape. In town, the women would put out checked tablecloths on picnic tables erected under the mulberry trees and serve fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon, ice cream and other familiar items. Forty years later, my father's family found a way to recreate these experiences, which must have been deeply embedded in their sensory memories.
I wonder what sensory memories the Fourth of July evokes for you and what symbols and customs you've chosen to incorporate into your holiday celebration?
Alvin, Dave, "Fourth of July," The King of California
Listen to a tiny clip from the acoustic version:
Most One of my strong sensory associations with Fourth of July is the color and flavor of strawberries. While preparing for a Midsummer's Day Garden party, I collected several different strawberry recipes, all simple. This first one comes from Aroma by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson, a book full of wonderful ideas for using essential oils in cooking:
Strawberries Marinated in Rose Water
10 cups washed and quartered strawberries (about 5 pints)
2 tablespoons rosewater
Toss the strawberries with the rosewater and sugar to taste. Put in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but preferably not more than 6. Gently stir from time to time. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Serve the strawberries by themselves with some of the juices ladled over them or with sweetened yogurt or fromage blanc.
This was enough to serve 12 people and have plenty left over. I tried a sample batch with 1 pint of strawberries and 1/2 T of rosewater and got two generous servings. I tasted the strawberries every time I stirred them and it's true the rose water flavor becomes more noticeable the longer they marinate.
The next two ideas come from The Tuscan Year by Elizabeth Romer which records the foodways of the Cerotti family.
Fragalone with Red Wine and Cloves
Silvana Cerotti likes to serve fragalone (now isn't that a much better name than strawberry?) by drowning them in red wine in which a few cloves have been steeped. Romer writes that this traditional Italian combination "brings out the strawberry flavour in a surprising way."
Fragalone with Lemon Juice and Sugar
Sometimes Silvana prepares strawberries by marinating them in sifted sugar and lemon juice for a few hours before serving. Romer notes: "The lemon and strawberry meld together in a delicious way."
Aftel, Mandy and Daniel Patterson, Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food & Fragrance
Romer, Elizabeth, The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
Its 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. The topics for May were: Lusty Month of May (Celebrating Lifes Pleasures), Thinning in the Garden of Time (Choosing Priorities), Bottom Line in Self Care (Mothering Yourself), Attracting Pollinators and Taking a Question for a Walk. When you order the Calendar Companion, you will receive the next weeks 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.
Holiday Packet: Lammas/Lughnasad
Just a reminder that this is a good time to order your holiday packet for one of my favorite holidays, the mysterious and evocative Lammas or Lughnasad, celebrated on August 1/2.
This illustrated, 30+ page portfolio includes:
- Ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions of Lughnasad and Lammas
- Transformation mysteries of beer and bread
- Recipes for mead and methlegyn, medicinal and fermented honey beverages
- Instructions for creating wheat weavings and lavender wands
- Lyrics for Lammas songs, including Brigg Fair and John Barleycorn
- And much more
The packet is available in two versions: sent email as a Word attachment for $9 or as printed pages sent via regular mail in a portfolio for $14. You can order a packet by clicking here.
You can download a free sample from the packet here (PDF file).
Unfortunately the Slow Time workshop, scheduled for September in Boulder, was cancelled so if you want to see me talk about Slow Time in person, come to the Take Back Your Time conference, August 5 - 7 in Seattle.
I had a great time at last year?s conference in Chicago, especially enjoying the way the conference is designed to mix people together so we can swap ideas and resources and leave with encouragement and ideas for our own work. I?ll be speaking about Natural Time on a panel that includes Robina McCurdy, who teaches classes in community-building and permaculture in New Zealand and Huckleberry who teaches native plant identification, wild foods foraging and seed collecting, and facilitates deep nature connection experiences in the Olympic National Park of Washington. Here?s a link for more information about the conference:
Signs of Summer
Here in Seattle, it's the time of bright orange day lilies and the heavy purple spires of the butterfly bush. It's also the height of the lavender season.
There are many beautiful descriptions of summer in various parts of the country up on the web site under Signs of Summer. Here are snippets from a few:
Susan from Studio City, California writes on June 7:
Every afternoon, I drive down the street toward the setting sun through block after block of lacey lavender jacaranda trees whose pastel blossoms drift through the air like purple rain. It's as though the whole city is dressed for a celebration.
And from Darcey Blue's summer newsletter:
For us here in the Sonoran Desert, the summer solstice is a sign that soon, hopefully, the rains will begin. And true to form this year, on solstice, our skies filled with dark storm clouds. There wasn't much rain fall that night, but when the clouds begin to build in the afternoon skies, you know that rain won't be too far off.
While Kelly from Calgary writes on June 15:
The last hint of light in the west is now leaving Calgary just before midnight and returning to the east not long after 3. Of course the sunset and sunrise take hours, so Calgary is not really light past 10:30-11 or till 4:30. But there are one or two birds (song sparrows?) that disregard such a short period of darkness anyway. Across the river, I hear them singing through the night.
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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