Living in Season
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My Season: Chester Farewell
He had been sleeping comfortably on my bed, which he hadn't done in a long time, when he woke up and seemed in distress. I helped him up and walked him around the house (I had to hold him upright because he kept falling down) trying to figure out if he needed water, food or something else. Finally when nothing seemed to comfort him, I carried him down the stairs and outside, thinking maybe he needed to pee. It was 3:20 am, and the sky was already a glorious royal blue (the sun would rise at 4:11). A soft warm breeze was blowing from the east and Chester stood there in the parkway as the breeze ruffled through his fur while I held up his back legs, sniffing the air as he always did. We stayed out there for a long time and nothing else happened and then I carried him inside.
The next morning I carried him out again, this time wrapped in his favorite blanket, to take him to the vet. At one point, I set him down on the grass so I could open the car door and told him, "Don't move," then realized with a breaking heart, that he couldn't. This was a dog who loved more than anything to run free (which is how he ended up at the animal shelter for us to adopt in the first place). Weeks later when I take our little dog, my daughter's Chihuahua, Pepe, for a walk he still stops at that spot and sniffs the ground. I know he can smell Chester still. I wish I could.
There are still days when I cry. I cried when I wrote this. It's hardest when I'm on my way home and realize there won't be a being eager to see me when I walk in the door.
One thing I would do differently if I had to do it again (and I probably will as I can't imagine life without a dog): I would have a vet come to the house to put Chester to sleep. I want to feel his spirit in the house and I don't.
One thing we did that was comforting: we held a wake for Chester and invited all the people who knew him. It was good for me and my daughter to focus on that eventcleaning up, preparing food, going through the photographs of Chester and putting them up on the bulletin board in the hall, making a memorial card to hand out. And it was great to share "Chester stories" over the phone and with those who came.
The day of the wake, the pictures from our beach trip came back from the photo finishing place, and I was blessed with the best picture of Chester I've ever taken. He's standing on the beach, his ears and tail blowing in the wind, and a smile on his face.
My daughter commented at one point that she thought it was odd Chester died at summer solstice. (My friend Joanna Powell Colbert has written about people and pets who die at significant moments in time in her blog.)I said I didn't think so Chester had left right after the golden moment when the sun was at its peak and I got to share that moment with him briefly on an early Midsummer's morning. He also left right before the Dog Days of summer.
May your losses be gentle and your memories sweet,
Living in Season: Being with Plants
I've been obsessed with plants ever since I began my blog, Living in Season, and my Flower of the Day subscription service. Every night I research and write about a different plant, usually taking my choices from the French Republican calendar (which I found on Wikipedoa), but occasionally from Flora's Dial, a calendar created in 1853 by J. Wesley Hanson, or from a plant associated with the saint of the day (like the yellow rattle for St. Peter).
It's been amazing to discover how many resources I've collected over the years (and, of course, I'm collecting more) and what great sources I can find on the Internet (I've listed some of my favorites below) but all of this book learning only takes you so far.
It's during the day when I go on my plant prowls that the information really comes alive. Fortunately I have found most of the plants I've featured just within the eight or ten blocks I walk every day. Sometimes it seems as if a plant is calling to me, because I will take a different route to work or turn my head and see just the plant I'm seeking.
Once I've found the plant, I try to figure out how to integrate it into my life. I've listed below a few of the methods I've tried in the last six weeks.
The first three ideas come from Stephen Harrod Buhner's marvelous book, Sacred Plant Medicine.
1) Sit with the plant. Visit it each day. Listen for any messages that it may offer you. Buhner says that many indigenous healers learn how to use a particular plant through a message received in a dream or a song.
2) Carry the plant in a bag around your neck, close to your heart. (And in taking a piece of the plant, treat the plant with respect, as you would a person. Ask if it will come with you. Make an offering of tobacco or cornmeal as a sign of gratitude.)
3) Sleep with the plant under your pillow
4) Grow the plant in your garden or inside your apartment.
You must be sure before you try any of these that the plant has not been sprayed and that it is edible. You'd be surprised by how many plant are edible. Plants for a Future has a comprehensive list.
Again the possibilities range from the simple (sprinkle a few leaves or petal into your salad) to the complex (a stir fry with day lily buds in Kathy Brown's book). You can easily find these recipes by typing in the plant name and recipe into Google. I like the easy ideas, like mixing chopped up herbs with butter to create a herb butter or layering fragrant flower petals (like roses) with sugar so it absorbs the flavor of the roses.
Another easy way to capture the flavor and qualities of a plant is to make it into tea (sometimes called an infusion, as real tea applies only to an infusion of the tea plant, camellia sinensis). Simply pour boiling water over fresh or dried leaves or petals. Or you can put the plant in water out in the sun and let it brew your tea for you (this seems wonderfully natural).
Alcohol is a great solvent, which for most plants, will extract the medicinal qualities and flavor. In my quest for recipes, I've been studying old cookbooks and recipes from the Middle Ages. Herbalists frequently suggested remedies which involved steeping plants in wine. Vodka is another good solvent since it has little flavor of its own. The Danish Schnapps web site (below) provides instructions for combining vodka and flowers, berries and fruit. I like to make cough syrups by steeping ginger slices or lavender buds in the brandy. And I've been surprised to learn how many liqueurs, like Benedictine, Pernod and Chartreuse were originally developed for their medicinal qualities (or so the monks said).
Vinegar is another solvent which extracts the medicinal qualities from plants, particularly from roots like yellow dock. I'm doing one experiment right now with rosemary in vinegar but I haven't tried the results. You could combine this with oil to make a great salad dressing or take a spoonful every day as medicine.
You can also make simple syrup by combining one half cup sugar with one cup water with however much of the plant material you like. Boil together, strain off the plant material and store in your refrigerator. This can be added to other beverages, for instance, lemonade, or add it to schnapps to make a cordial.
Although I love all the learning that I'm doing, I'm also feeling a bit overwhelmed. I can't really incorporate a plant every day into my life. One task I recommended to my Summer School of the Seasons students was finding one plant ally, a plant whose qualities you would explore in depth during the season. This would be more reasonable than a plant a day. So I'm going to suspend my Flower of the Day subscription service (after fulfilling my current orders) and go back to my blog, writing occasionally, and trying to make it more personal (about my experiences with plants, rather than a summary of the literature that already exists). I hope you will join me in adopting a plant ally and contribute your experiences to my blog:
Holiday Packet: Lammas
Order now to receive the holiday packet for one of my favorite seasonal holidays, the mysterious and evocative Lammas or Lughnasad, celebrated on August 1/2.
This illustrated, 30+ page portfolio includes:
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.
Autumn Correspondence Course
Last year, for the first time I offered an online version of the Autumn correspondence course. It was a great success. I revised the autumn materials (which hadn't been updated for ten years) and was inspired by the feedback of my students. This year I'm able to offer three different ways to experience the Autumn course.
Autumn Interactive Online Course
In this eight week class, we'll explore a different topic every week. Homework assignments will include tasks that help you interact with the natural world where you live, pass along your wisdom, capture the memories of the year, honor the ancestors, explore the shadows and celebrate Harvest. You will personalize the course so that it works for you and report on your activities every week in a private list serve.
The cost is $120 for eight weeks. The course begins August 31 and ends October 19. To enjoy all the benefits of the course, you should be able to devote at least three hours a week to your studies, which includes reading the weekly lesson, carrying out an activity and posting to the list serve. Enrollment is limited to ten students.
Autumn Correspondence Course: Independent Study Version
You receive the same materials as the interactive course, one lesson a week for eight weeks. Instead of participating in the list serve you will have a chance to interact with Waverly directly, through one email a week, reporting on your ideas and experiences. $120. Also limited to ten participants.
Autumn Course Email Version
Since†I am still formatting the revised course (from a plain text version to an illustrated Word document), the various topics†will be delivered one week at a time, through October 19. $66. To order this option go to:
Autumn Course Print Version
The traditional print version of the Autumn course is not available at this time since the materials are being revised. It will be possible to order it after October 31 or next fall.
What I'm Reading
Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner
I've read and enjoyed Stephen's later books, Lost Language of Plants and Sacred and Healing Beer, which are both richer and more philosophical than this earlier book. But this book really takes me to the heart of Buhner's work. He explains how he healed himself with plant medicine and then went searching for an explanation of how native healers learned about plants. He writes about his own relationships with four special plants and twelve other species. One thing I learned from this book which has profoundly shifted my awareness: did you know that being around bird song encourages plants to open their stomata wider (the tiny pores through which they take in nourishment)? It tells me that we are all interconnected in mysterious ways.
Cloudspotters Guide by Gavine Pretor-Pinney, Perigee 2006
I loved this book which is the fruit of a web site started by the author who encouraged other people to submit stories, poems, art and photographs of clouds.
The Edible Flower Garden by Kathy Brown, Lorenz 1999
This is one of the books I bought after reading a copy I got from the library. A beautiful compilation of photographs, gardening information and wonderful recipes including Hollyhock and Nectarine Salad, Nasturtium Omelette and Fennel Sorbet, just to mention a few.
Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia by Patience Grey, Harper & Row 1986
I just got this from my library and I'm already so in love with it I know I will buy a copy. This is an autobiographical cookbook about the recipes Patience Grey learned as she followed her lover, the Sculptor, through the various regions mentioned, and learned how to cook the rustic, traditional and seasonal dishes of these places.
Links: Plant Lore
Mrs Grieve's Modern Herbal
Mrs. Maud Grieve's Modern Herbal (first published in 1931) is reproduced at
This is the first place I turn for information about herbs and other plants with medicinal qualities. The information may be out of date, but it's thorough and reliable. I also love the old botanical illustrations that accompany each plant.
I have to thank Wikipedia for starting me on this quest with the great article on the French Republican calendar. I also find they provide great articles on plants and photographs that are in the public domain. Here's the page that launched my Flower of the Day adventure:
Chelsie Vandaveer specializes in writing about plants, and she does a thorough job of exploring history and folklore, plus providing links to other sites of interest. I always check out her website to see if she's written about the plants I'm featuring.
When I'm writing about stone fruit (and so far I've featured cherries), this is the place to go. Everything you ever wanted to know about stone fruit plus lots of links.
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages
When I'm writing about spices, this is the place to go. Detailed information about the spices, their constituents, their history, a thorough discussion of etymology and great links:
Human Flower Project
I was thrilled to discover Julie Ardery's blog featuring articles about how people live through flowers, including articles on Midsummer wreaths, the etiquette of flower giving in Korea, and, one of my favorites, a history of Sweet Pea, the (love?) child of Popeye and Olive Oyl.
Mountain Valley Growers
I've been impressed with the information provided by this website so I decided to order one of their herb six-packs. It seems like the best way to get to know these herbs.
This website provides a place for avid gardeners to trade seeds, information and photographs of their plants
The Garden of Paghat the Ratgirl
This website is a luscious treat and shows the true potential of the web. Paghat the Ratgirl has lovingly documented the plants in her garden with over 2,500 photographs and over 600 articles. These are complex, well-researched articles, replete with quotations and personal anecdotes about each of the flowers. It's awfully convenient for me that she lives in my Zone so the plants she features are ones I see every day.
I've featured this site before but want to recommend it again as pouring vodka over flowers, berries, fruit or leaves is such a simple way to capture their flavors, colors and essences. Vivi Labo of Copenhagen who created this site does a good job of providing photographs and recipes for over 60 kinds of schnapps.
As I've done research for my Flower of the Day updates, I've found myself returning over and over again to certain web sites which have a wealth of reliable information.
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
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. To order or to see a sample reflection, click here.
Signs of Summer
Karen from Everett, Washington sent a lovely description of her signs of summer which is posted at the website. I pulled out this snippet since it seemed appropriate for this newsletter's topic:
Where ever you live, send me your news of the season and I will post it on my web site under Signs of the Season.