Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 11
July 29, 2005
St. Martha's Day
- August Calendar Up!
- My Season: Searching for Water Lilies
- Flower of the Month: Dahlia
- Living in Season: Bilberry Sunday
- Recipes: Berry Treats
- New Online Class: Autumn
- Holiday Packet: Lammas/Lughnasad
- Correspondence Course: Autumn
- Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
- Personal Appearance: Take Back Your Time
- 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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August Calendar Up!
The August calendar is updated for 2005 and contains a plethora of interesting holidays, including the full moon festivals of Mary, Artemis, and Hecate, the fiery holidays of St. Lawrence and Tisha B'Av, and the Moon of the Hungry Ghosts. To view it, click here.
My Season: Searching for Water Lilies
Since I sent out my last newsletter, mentioning my appreciation for the Canadian custom of serving birthday cake on Canada Day, at least two people have written to tell me they also bake and serve cake on Fourth of July. I think this is a great custom that we should spread across America.
One of the things I love about the traditions I've adopted for honoring each season is that they push me out of my customary box (i.e., the walls of my apartment, and the computer screen) and send me out into the natural world and my community.
Last weekend, I went kayaking for the first time because I wanted to visit the water lilies (the flower of July). My friend persuaded me to rent a double kayak rather than my usual rowboat or canoe, and we went paddling out onto Lake Union on a sunny afternoon. It took a while to get the rhythm of the paddles--it wasn't until he mentioned that it should feel like "rocking" that I began to get the drift. The kayak seemed to glide like a water bug along the surface of the lake and it was amazing to look across the glistening blue waters at the glittering towers of Seattle's downtown skyline.
I must say the water lilies were a disappointment. When we finally paddled across the lake and into the shallow cove, under the freeway bridge, where the water lilies clog the shoreline, we found a tangled mass of sodden brown, with only a few white buds, tightly closed. (I think they only open in the mornings and evenings but since I've never seen them open, this remains a theory.)
This weekend I'm going on my usual berry-picking expedition (see below).
Blessings of new adventures,
Flower of August: Dahlia
With the Start of August, it's time to switch from looking for water lilies to looking for dahlias. Those in my garden aren't blooming yet but there are a few at the corner of my block. I especially like the red ones that remind me of the planet Mars. For more information about the folklore and history of the dahlia, see my article on the Flower of August here.
Living in Season: Bilberry Sunday
While I was writing my Lammas holiday packet, I read historian Maire MacNeill's book Lughnasa, about the Celtic festival which takes place around August 1st. She collected references to the holiday from both ancient texts and a survey administered in Ireland in 1942.
The date of this holiday is more slippery than most of the quarter days. It is sometimes celebrated on the last Sunday of July and sometimes on the first Sunday of August, at least in Ireland. I especially like the ancient name of Bron Trogain, sometimes translated as "earth sorrows under her fruits."
It is known as both the Last Weekend of Summer and the First Weekend of Autumn so I suppose you could celebrate this upcoming weekend as the Last Weekend of Summer and next weekend as the First Weekend of Autumn, which means you could go for a hike one weekend and spend another picking berries.
Its considered lucky to harvest new potatoes on Lughnasa and unlucky to dig them up earlier. The farmers of Ballinrobe, County Mayo, said there were three things a good farmer should have left on Garlic Sunday (another name for this holiday): a stack of unthreshed oats, a stack of old turf, and a pit of old potatoes (thus showing his ability to properly allocate his resources). Its also traditional to have the potatoes for dinner on Lughnasa, often with bacon and cabbage or in Colcannon (a dish of potatoes, mixed with butter or milk and seasoned with garlic, onion or cabbage).
Lughnasa is sometimes called Garland Sunday. In County Mayo, people wore garlands made from the stalks of corn. In other places, the garlands were fashioned from flowers and left on mountain tops, along with other offerings such as wheat. At Gainmhe in County Donegal, everyone wore a flower going up hill and at the summit all the flowers were put into a hole and covered over, as a sign that summer was over.
Climbing a mountain is a favorite way to celebrate. All over Ireland, people climb mountains, often picking bilberries as they go, thus giving rise to the popular name of Bilberry Sunday. Bilberries are one of the first berries to ripen in Ireland. In some places, boys threaded the berries on grass stalks and make bracelets of them for the girls of their choice. In Cashel Plantin' in County Armagh, these strung berries were brought home as presents and kept around the house for luck.
Bilberries grow wild in northern Europe, western Asia and the Rockies in western North America. Although the fruits have long been eaten, cooked in pies, tarts, syrups and jams, Hildegard of Bingen was one of the first herbalists to recommend them medicinally (to induce menstruation). Bilberries continued to be popular with herbalists and doctors for centuries but scientists didn't pay much attention to the plant until Royal Air Force pilots flying night missions during World War II began reporting that they had better night vision after eating bilberry jam.
According to herbalist, Stephen Foster, once scientists began studying bilberries they identified the effective ingredients as a group of compounds called anthocyanosides, the pigments responsible for red, violet and blue color in flowers and fruits. Anthocyanoside is an antioxidant, which means it is good for cancer prevention. Bilberries also contain many other beneficial ingredients. Studies have shown bilberries to be effective in treating problems caused by poor micro-circulation in the capillaries, including atherosclerosis, bruising, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, night vision and diabetic retinopathy.
The bilberry found in Ireland (vaccinium-myrtillus) is a relative of the blueberry. You can see the resemblance in this picture taken by Henriette:
Both are members of the genus Vaccinium family, which also includes several other shrubs with edible fruits including buckberries, huckleberries, farkleberries, cranberries, whortleberries and crowberries.
Blueberries native to America include the cultivated "highbush" blueberry (vaccinium corymbosum), the Southern blueberry (vaccinium asheii), also called Rabbiteye because the calyx looks like the eye of a rabbit, and a dwarf, "lowbush" blueberry (vaccinium angustifoloum) that grows as far north as the Artic. Native Americans called them "star berries" because of the way the 5-pointed calyx resembles a star. The juice was used to treat coughs, as well as dye baskets and cloth. Dried blueberries were added to stews, soups and meats, and crushed into a powder that was rubbed into meat to give it flavor. They also made a kind of beef jerky from dried blueberries and meat which could be consumed all year. The Wampanoag Indians taught the settlers at Plymouth how to dry blueberries under the summer sun and store them for winter, when they would have been a good source of Vitamin C.
Blueberries are now grown across America and harvested from July through October. If you are interested in finding fresh blueberries to pick near where you live, go to this web site and type in your state name:
In the city of Seattle, I usually go hunting for fresh blackberries (although now that I've learned more about blueberries, I may adopt a new tradition). My favorite spot for blackberry-picking is along the Burke-Gilman trail, our longest bike path, a river of concrete thronged with walkers, skaters and cyclists, and banked (at least near south Lake Union) by extensive blackberry brambles. Although I enjoy berries straight off the bush, still warm from the sun, I always bring home bags of sweet black fruit, which I eat fresh or splashed with cream.
Fitzgerald, Waverly, "Celebrating Summer's End," July 2004
Foster, Stephen: "Bilberry and Herbal Medicine,"
MacNeill, Maire, The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford University Press 1962
Raymo, Chet, Climbing Brandon: Science and Faith on Irelands Holy Mountain, Walker & Company 2004
Recipes: Berry Treats
Of course the simplest and most satisfying way to experience a berry is right off the bush, plucked and popped into your mouth, still warm from the sun.Second best, in my opinion, is the very simple presentation of berries in cream. No need for sugar, even, if you've got ripe berries.
But here are a few interesting serving ideas I found while researching bilberries:
The Blueberry Council has a lot of good recipes but I particularly liked this simple idea contributed by Eric Nelson on November 12, 2003. Eric freezes his blueberries (by putting dry blueberries on a baking sheet in the freezer). When he's ready to enjoy them he takes one cup of frozen berries and pours over it a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of half and half. He says "The berries freeze the cream and it is like having soft serve ice cream with fresh blueberries in it."
Another website, Cook with Aloha, suggests attractive ways to serve blueberries: in a half of a cantaloupe with a dollop of yogurt, or in a parfait glass, alternated with yogurt.
Lavender and blueberries make a particularly good combination. I've found recipes that pair them in jams, soup and muffins. The simplest preparation is a lavender-blueberry syrup.
Cook with Aloha:
New Online Class: Autumn Correspondence Course
I'm offering a new opportunity to experience the School of the Seasons as an online class this Autumn. It's a chance to pay attention to the season on a deeper level, through adopting spiritual and creative practices that connect your to the themes and energy of the season. It's also a chance to be more engaged with the natural world, and simultaneously to experience the season as it changes across the world, as participants report on what is happening where they live.
I think it's a testament to the pleasure and magic of the experience that almost half of the participants in the Spring online class have signed up for Fall. But there are still a few spaces left if you want to join us.
Each week I'll be sending out a lesson that includes questions you can answer and post to a private list-serve. These lessons and questions will help you interact with the natural world where you live, celebrate the holidays of autumn, develop personal spiritual practices that help you connect with the energy of the season, and accomplish creative projects that reflect the themes of the season.
Enrollment is limited to ten students.
The cost is $150 for twelve weeks.
The course begins in August but the initial assignment will be sent the last week of July.
To enjoy all the benefits of the course, you should be able to devote at least two hours a week to your studies, which includes reading the weekly lesson, carrying out an activity and posting to the list serve.
Here's how one of the participants in the spring course described her experience:
I found that I made much more effort to honor spring holidays, traditions and time with the information I gleaned from this course... Being able to share ideas and learn from the other students was a very satisfying, grounding experience that makes my memories of this spring really stand out...
To register, click here.
Registration is first come, first served. The Spring Online class filled completely.
If you need more information, including an outline, just send me an email at
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
Order now to receive the 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).
New: Panelists for Take Back Your Time Day conference
I'm presenting a workshop on Natural Time on Friday, August 5 at 2:45 PM as part of the Take Back Your Time Day conference being held at Seattle University in Seattle from August 5 to 7. The original panelists were not able to attend but I am happy to share this topic with two colleagues whose work I admire:
Carol Vecchio, the executive director for Centerpoint Institute for Career and Life Renewal, a Seattle-based organization that inspires people to discover creativity, passion and renewed commitment in life and at work through the use of a seasonal change model, and
Sally King, a Community Certified Herbalist, who runs the education programs at Ravencroft Garden, in Monroe, Washington, where I've taken many wonderful classes in gardening, herbal medicine-making and artisanal foods.
Take Back Your Time Day Conference
Signs of Summer
I got so many signs of summer in response to my plea in the last newsletter that I haven't had a chance to respond to them all. I am still posting them to the web site so check it in a few days. Meanwhile here are a few:
Elizabeth in Kentucky reported on July 17 that the corn in her garden was tall and getting tassels. She expects her first ears to be ready to harvest around Lunasadh.
Gail sent these signs of summer from New Jersey:
"The cicadas are out in force.
The plantain is lush plump and green
My jasmines are blooming in abundance and I can finally begin infusions
All the butterflies are busy
Honey is in abundance at the local apiaries
And I see long phallic mullein in specific spots of the woods in the mountains of New Jersey"
Deniece from San Diego sent a picture of summer gold: tar weed by the road. Somehow I'm going to have to add a visual component to the web site so we can share these glimpse of the season visually as well as verbally.
And Suzie from Washington D.C. reported:
"We're in the thick, murky, hot soup that we're known for in the Washington, DC area. The doldrums of summer. Walking outside right now is like walking into a heavy wet wall...and it's not even raining. The sky has lost the clarity of early summer. The insects are having a heyday. So it's better to be inside in the air conditioning. Thank goodness for ac!"
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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