Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 14
October 3, 2005
- My Season: Falling Leaves
- Feedback Loop: Why the Harvest Moon is so Big
- Living in Season: The Rhythm of Darkness
- On My Bookshelf
- Holiday Packet: Halloween
- 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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The October calendar is up at my web site and it's stuffed full of festivals since many of the holidays that usually fall in September, like Chrysanthemum Day and Rosh Hashanah, are in October this year. Check it out here.
My Season: Falling Leaves
The leaves are falling here in Seattle. I spent about fifteen minutes under one of my favorite trees, a black locust, trying to catch a falling leaf supposedly this brings you luck but they spiral around in such unexpected ways that it's nearly impossible. Or if it does happen it happens by luck.
For the Calendar Companion last week, I wrote about looking for your power animal, a little New Age riff on the ancient Autumn activity: hunting. Guess what animal showed up in my life? The Squirrel,of course. I saw them repeatedly dashing across the street, read about them in Suburban Safari (review below), and heard about one particularly unlucky specimen who met up with my friend Dan's cat.
The Squirrel is the perfect Autumn animal for a city dweller--especially for one who's overwhelmed with tasks. Autumn is my busiest and most productive season but this year it seems more frantic than usual because I just started working a part-time job. The learning curve is steep and the job (as with most non-profit arts organizations) involves a level of commitment beyond the hours paid). But the biggest problem is that I haven't let go of any of the things I was doing before I took the job and I was working an average of 50 hours a week then.
So I've been feeling rather sheepish about promoting Slow Time and Take Back Your Time Day (October 24) when I feel more like a hamster running on a wheel than a squirrel stashing nuts for the winter. Part of my distress comes from my inability to find the rhythm in my days, but observing the squirrel reminds me that I'm building a nest for the winter.
And I see another useful metaphor in the falling leaves. Deciduous trees shed their leaves in Autumn because those tender, thin food-making factories known as leaves are likely to freeze. So at the place where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree, a layer of cells builds up which eventually separates the leaf from the tree and it falls.
The natural process is not all about gaining and growing but also about losing and letting go. Autumn provides us with this paradox in one season: harvest and abundance, coupled with loss and decay. At Centerpoint, the career development center in Seattle, Autumn is the time on the wheel of change when we realize that things aren't working. First we ignore the evidence, then we get angry, then we try quick fixes. You might recognize these as the stages in the grief process described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross).
Eventually we come to an ending point, a time when we have to let go. For some people (I suspect I'm one of them) this won't happen until we're at the edge of a cliff, holding on by our fingernails. Sometimes we're pushed by circumstances, like getting sick or getting fired. It's a lot easier if you recognize the change coming and make a graceful transition, for instance, resigning or breaking off the relationship. But for most of us that's hard to do. Instead we cling and eventually we are pushed into letting go. The fall is frightening. We are plunged into grief for all we've lost. Only after we pass through that stage can we wake up and see that we're in a strange new world full of possibilities.
I'm hoping to learn from watching the autumn leaves fall how to let go gracefully of the unnecessary tasks in my life.
May you shed your burdens as the leaves fall,
P.S. Just after I wrote this I read what Claudia at Moonsurfing had to say about this upcoming New Moon. She wrote: "What this Libra New Moon craves most is a beautiful peaceful balanced life. The question this New Moon asks is... How can I bring heaven to earth and experience it throughout my whole life now? Sounds like a pretty idealistic impossible question doesn't it? I think it's your choice... a matter of recognizing and accepting it in any present moment. [But] in order to reap the benefits, you have to wake up to what's absolutely got to go."
Take Back Your Time Day: www.simpleliving.net/timeday/
Feedback Loop: Why is the Harvest Moon so Big?
In response to my question in the last newsletter about why the Harvest full moon seems so much bigger than other full moons, Rose Welsh of St. George, Utah did some research for me on line and found this explanation at New Science:
"In autumn, the full moon rises into the sky at a lower angle, making it appear to hang along the horizon longer. Since the moon's light travels through more atmosphere near the horizon, refraction sometimes makes the apparent size of the moon larger. But more importantly, a foreground of hills and vegetation give us a scale of comparison, and the Harvest and Hunter's moons seem much larger as they rise."
Here's the link:
Living in Season: Living in Rhythm
Learning to synchronize with other rhythms is rooted in our organism's innate behavioral program it's a key to the survival of our species.
Edward Hall, Dance of Life
Life is rhythm. Our most basic rhythm, the heart beat, ticks in synchronization with the deep pulses of the earth. We can't help but be creatures of rhythm. We walk through waves of rhythm every day, our patterns of alertness shaped by the turning of the earth on its axis, creating night and day. We sleep in rhythm as well, alternating periods of REM and non-REM sleep.
We also move in rhythm with other people. We are always being seduced, pulled into other's rhythms. Entrainment is the term coined by Ray William London, to describe the way two people become engaged in the same rhythms. It happens whenever you spend time with a friend. For babies, it happens in the womb. London spent over two years studying 4-1/2 minutes of film clip of a family eating dinner. This minute observation allowed him to see that each individual in the family responded to the others on a rhythmic level. He concluded that the definition of the self is deeply embedded in the rhythmic synchronous process. No wonder we fall back into old patterns when visiting our family of origin. No wonder we choose companions who move to the same rhythm as we do.
I suspect that one of the reasons I am having trouble with my new job is that it has disrupted my rhythm. For the past two years, as a free-lancer, I had the luxury of choosing my own schedule. I made appointments with clients and dates with friends but I left plenty of space around each encounter. Now I rush from appointments to work and from work to run errands, without taking any time between them.
One of the important rhythms that I learned about when I was researching my Slow Time book is the ultradian rhythm. These are natural cycles of arousal, peak performance, stress and rest which occur in 90 to 120 minute cycles throughout the day. According to Ernest Lawrence Rossi, who wrote about this rhythm in his book, The Twenty Minute Break, the ultradian cycle normally consists of 90 to 100 minutes of peak performance and then a twenty minute lull or rest. I love it that the ultradian rhythm imitates the cycle of the seasons with different phases representing spring (arousal), summer (peak performance), fall (stress) and winter (rest). You know that you have reached the down part of the cycle when you start to get restless, your mind wanders, you get hungry or feel you need a bathroom break. Many of us, however, drive ourselves straight through this portion of the cycle, trying to get more work done, or spend our lunch hour running errands or talking to a friend, when we might be better off sitting and staring out the window. I know this tendency is causing my current feeling of time starvation.
Another natural rhythm is the diurnal cycle of night and day. At the Autumn Equinox, the hours of light and dark are balanced. But how many of us actually spend as much time resting as we do being active? And as the darkness deepens, as we move into the still heart of winter, we should be sleeping even more. But instead we often speed up, spurred up by holiday obligations and social demands. I suspect this is one cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The Take Back Your Time Day folks are currently promoting the Four Windows of Time campaign, which was begun by the Massachusetts Council of Churches. This is the idea of taking four windows of time for slow, quiet, life-renewing activities.
Then there's also Take Back Your Time day on October 24, Monday, which might be a good day to play hooky and spend the day at home in your pajamas, reading or watching TV or whatever other activity seems sinfully slothful. If you were an average European worker, your vacation time would equal the time between October 24 and the end of the year.
I loved reading about the vacation plans of a German medical assistant, interviewed by Joe Robinson. He takes his "big holiday" of three weeks at the end of the year when the weather in Germany is cold and gray and goes someplace warm like Bali or Costa Rica. At Easter, he meets a group of friends in Tuscany or Greece, where they rent a house for a week, cook meals together and just relax. Every September, he and his friends visit a different capital city in Europe (Prague one year, London another) for a five-day adventure. Doesn't that sound ideal?
Another opportunity to take time off arrives with the Christmas holidays. It used to be traditional to suspend all work during the Twelve Days of Christmas (from Christmas Eve through January 6, Twelfth Night).
Be creative as you move into the dark half of the year, about finding opportunities to rest and relax, knowing that it is a natural part of the rhythm of life.
Robinson, Joe, Work To Live, Perigee 2003
Robinson, Joe, www.worktolive.com
Rossi, Ernest Lawence, The Twenty Minute Break, Tarcher 1991
On My Bookshelf
Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn by Hannah Holmes, Bloomsbury 2005
I'm loving this book which is the account of a year Holmes spent observing the natural life in her backyard in suburban Maine. She becomes familiar with a family of crows, adopts a chipmunk who eats from her hand, and lets her lawn go wild (it's a Freedom Lawn). Whenever she encounters an interesting bird or insect, she calls in the experts to help her study them. Her writing is lively and smooth and the book is structured by season, so, of course, I love it.
Holiday Packet: Halloween
Over 40 pages of ideas on how to celebrate Samhain, Halloween and Days of the Dead. This illustrated portfolio includes:
- A panoramic review of how Days of the Dead has been celebrated
- How this holiday evolved?a history of our alienation from the ancestors
- The last of the autumnal transformation mysteries: making cider
- Divinations for this particular crack between the worlds
- Recipes for traditional foods like dead man's bones and soul cakes
- Instructions for making skulls and masks
- 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.
Autumn Correspondence Course
If you're interested in studying in the School of the Seasons, take a look at the correspondence course which offers ideas for aligning with the season. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered in Autumn, click here.
For an overview of the correspondence course, click here.
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. When you order, you will receive the introduction and the current week's topic. September's topics included La Rentree, Being a Contribution, Attitude of Abundance, Harvest Feast and Hunting Your Power Animal.
$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
Gwen Z. in Seattle reports that just a few days before the equinox her "two kitties, who could otherwise have nothing to do with each other, were found snuggled up together on the sofa. I haven't turned the heat on yet, but the house is starting to get chilly, so they have given up their differences for the sake of comfort."
Rose W. of St. George Utah, writes that she knows Autumn is here because her lips got very dry and then she developed a fever blister on the center of her upper lip. She says it happens very time the seasons change throughout the year.
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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