Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 12
September 5, 2005
- My Season: Stages of Grief
- Feedback Loop: Winter & Light Pollution
- September Calendar Up!
- Living in Season: Birthday Flowers
- Holiday Packet: Harvest
- What I'm Reading: Books on Weather and Night
- Correspondence Course: Autumn
- Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
- Signs of Autumn
- 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: Stages of Grief
I've been debating all weekend about sending this newsletter out as the news from New Orleans worsens. It's also my birthday weekend which has delayed me somewhat as I've been busy celebrating while ignoring an underlying feeling of melancholy. Can it be the usual sadness that I associate with birthdays (what Demetra George calls the dark moon of our own personal cycle)? Or, is it grief, I wondered as I finally took some quiet time to get in touch with my feelings about has happened to the people of New Orleans.
I'm thinking of the stages of grief, which were first delineated I believe by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her work with the dying: first, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It seems the news media is focusing right now on anger (justifiably so), while some of the initial lack of response could be attributed to denial (it can't possibly be that bad).
While searching for information on these stages online, I also found another way of thinking about grief, from a book by Dr. Roberta Temes which makes even more sense: numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation), disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss) and reorganization (re-entry into normal social life). I realize that I've been able to get through the weekend by ignoring the news and going ahead with my birthday plans, but now that I am slowing down and getting in touch with my feelings, I am overwhelmed with grief.
Ironic, that this disaster happened during the Days of Comfort.
May we all find comfort,
Feedback Loop: Winter and Light Pollution
One of my readers, Sureva, wrote to ask what are the signs of the depth of snow and harshness of the winter ahead. I suspect that some of you know the answers. If so, please let me know.
After sending out the last newsletter in which I recommended watching for the Perseid meteor showers and suggested some links related to light pollution, I found even more information about the effects of artificial light at night in a wonderful book, Acquainted with the Night (reviewed below). The author, Christopher Dewdney, writes quite poetically:
The city at night is like polder land, the Dutch term for fertile farmland taken from the sea by pumping sweater out of diked fields. In these luminous polders we can continue our daytime pursuits and reclaim new time from the night.
But Dewdney also points out the price we pay for this "day in the night." In a natural night sky we should be able to see about 3500 stars but in a city, even in a dark yard, Dewdney writes, only about 50 stars are visible. It seems to me that I can see only about 10 but maybe that's because my night vision has been affected. According to Italian astronomer, Pierantonio Cinzano, light pollution causes loss of night vision. In North America, 60% of the population may be affected. Light pollution also affects animals including migratory birds (who are disoriented by skyscraper lights), female sea turtles (who lay eggs in illuminated parking lots) and insects (who fly into lights on highways). And some scientists believe light pollution causes illness by disrupting the melatonin rhythm which can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, reproductive anomalies and perhaps even cancer. Studies have shown that women who work night shift have higher rates of breast cancer while women who are blind have much lower rates.
What can you do to protect yourself from light pollution? Reduce your exposure to light at night as much as possible. Don't watch television or work on your computer late at night. And keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
September Calendar Up!
The September calendar is up. The big emphasis is on the moon festivals: the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and the Harvest moon. You can also celebrate the Monkey God, Ganesh (the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom and success), Pan, the Kitchen God and the Nymphs.
Living in Season: Birthday Flowers
Many years ago, when I was a naïve but enthusiastic research I found a list of flowers for each day of the year which I dutifully copied out. Judging by the character of my handwriting, this occurred somewhere around my sophomore year in college. Unfortunately, I didn't note down the source of the book.
I liked the idea that someone had assigned a flower to each day of the year but I had trouble understanding some of the associations. Some seemed lazy, like the string of roses in July (crown of roses on July 5, white rosebud on July 6, red rose on July 7, white rose on July 8 and the dog rose on July 9). Others just made no sense, like why would lupine be the flower of November 8 or carnation the flower of December 19?
Over the years I collected associations between popular flowers and certain holidays, like sweet woodruff and April 30 or chrysanthemums and the ninth of the ninth (September 9 in the solar calendar, October 11 (this year) in the lunar calendar). Many holy days are linked with flowers, like the Assumption (August 15)and virgin's bower (clematis virginiana)or the Feast of Saint Michael (September 29) and Michaelmas daisies.
Then last year one of my readers, Samantha Gray, sent me a lovely email about how she taught her son to tell when his birthday came by the lily of the valley. She wrote:
When my son was very small and calendars held no meaning for him, he would ask about his birthday arriving. He knew he was born in May, but had little to associate it with
Finally I realized that the lily of the valley bloom here on his birthday week. I planted a clump for him, told him to watch them, and pointed out their progress as spring went by. He knew, by age 5, that when the lily of the valley blossomed, his birthday was almost there. It was a great calendar for him for years thereafter. In High School, he'd come home and report that the "lilies are almost white
hint, hint, Mom."
This awoke in me a recollection of the flower my mother associated with my birthday: the Amaryllis belladonna or naked lady, a fragrant pink lily that bloomed in Southern California, where I was born, on my birthday, September 4. I believe that one of the visitors to the hospital where I was born brought my mother a bouquet of the flowers. The sight and smell of the flower became entwined in her mind with my birth, an association she shared with me when I was much older.
Now I live in Seattle and I've never seen a naked lady blooming here but right now I have on my desk a fragrant stargazer lily, a bouquet of sweet peas I picked in my garden and a display of scarlet, gold and orange dahlias from the Sunday farmer's market. I could choose any one of these as my new birthday flower.
I'm thinking of launching a new feature for the website next year featuring a flower for every day. I will be inviting you to submit nominations for your birthday flower, that is a flower that blooms at the time you were born in the place you were born or where you live now. I will remind you again closer to the end of the year, but meanwhile I hope you will enjoy developing or remembering birthday flowers for your self and all the important people in your life.
Holiday Packet: Harvest
Last chance to order the Harvest packet and get it in time for Autumn Equinox. This holiday packet contains over 50 pages of ideas on how to celebrate the Autumn Equinox, including the:
Ancient celebrations of Harvest and Michealmas
The meaning of the Harvest Moon
The September Full Moon holidays of Mid-Autumn Moon and Sukkoth
Transformation mysteries of beer and wine
Recipes for gingerbread, ginger beer and other traditional Harvest foods
Instructions for creating wheat weavings, a corn dolly and a basket to honor Demeter
And much more.
The email version costs $9. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours of your order. The print version is $14. Please allow ten days for delivery. You can order a packet by clicking here.
You can download a free sample from the packet here (PDF file).
What I'm Reading: Books on Night and Weather
Two new books about night have just been published. I've only read (and only half of) the first one.
Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark by Christopher Dewdney, Bloomsbury 2004
This book is beautifully written and packed full of interesting facts. What I love most about it is the structure. It's organized by hour, for instance 8 PM is the Children's Hour when the author looks at, among other things, bedtime rituals for kids, including great bedtime stories, while 11 PM is the Night Within: The Body at Night in which I learned about atonia (the paralysis that affects our body at night and prevents us from sleep-walking) and mycoclonic jerks (that sensation of falling that wakes you up).
At Day's Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch, Norton 2005
Ekirch covers the same topics as Dewdney but in a chronological way, describing the way our attitudes about and activities during the night have changed throughout history. The text seems drier but more comprehensive (lots of footnotes).
Here's the other science book I'm currently reading (only half done with this one as well):
Under the Weather: How the Weather and Climate Affect Our Health by Pat Thomas, Fusion Press 2004
I love this book and the premise, so integral to the School of the Seasons, that our relationship to the natural world has an intimate effect on our lives. Thomas looks at all sorts of fascinating evidence of the way we're interlinked, from seasonal patterns in mental illness, longevity and birth defects, to the problems called by artificial environments. Easy to read and full of interesting information, some surprising, some not: for instance, suicide calls seem to increase during new moons while aggressive behavior seems to be correlated with the full moon. As most of us believe, births are somewhat more likely to take place at the full moon but not by much (1%).
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.
Signs of Autumn
I continue to receive signs of Autumn from the students in my Fall Online correspondence course, including these:
Sundogs, cirrus and cirrostratus clouds, visible contrails, thunderstorms over the Atlantic, milkweed pods, goldenrods and asters, the trees at the top of the mountains turning color in North Carolina, Queen Anne's lace curling into fists, herbs in bloom with bees buzzing around them in Denver, young squirrels gathering sunflower seeds, green walnuts on the trees, duckweed on the ponds, the first birds moving south along the Atlantic flyway, the simmering sounds of insects, a symphony of crickets, beach plums ripening in New Jersey, ripe Colorado peaches at the farmers markets, State Fairs, Burning Man, Wooly Worm Festival, Harvest Carnival, Apple Festival, the rich smell of decaying leaves, smoke from chimneys and bonfires, the scent of homemade applesauce (apples and cinnamon), school bus fumes, intense full moons, and an upsurge of emotions, particularly love and sadness.
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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