Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 15
October 27, 2005
- My Season: Slowing Down
- Slow Time Tips
- Living in Season: Honoring the Ancestors
- Holiday Packet: Halloween
- Correspondence Course: Winter
- Signs of Autumn
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
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My Season: Slowing Down
It's been almost seven weeks since I started my new part-time job, as the Finance Manager for a local writing center, the job that was supposed to give me financial stability so my time would be free for my writing and teaching. Instead it has slowly taken over my life so that now when I walk the dog around the block I'm not noticing the fog over the lake or the scattering of rust-colored leaves in the gutter but thinking instead about how to clean up tangled journal entries or enter negative amounts for credit card refunds in Quick Books.
The good news is that the roller coaster ride of the learning curve seems to be smoothing out. When I was in my initial phase of desperation, a friend told me that people usually get through the acute phase of an emotional crisis in six weeks. It's taken me a bit longer (about seven weeks) but I'm finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Perhaps that's because I actually went away last weekend, visiting Portland and the Columbia Gorge. I finally caught my lucky falling leaf (do you know how hard it is to catch a falling leaf? try it!) on a Portland street. The sun shone most of the weekend, casting those long autumnal shadows on the road and setting alight the yellow of birch leaves, the bursts of flame colors that were the maples.
For the first six weeks of this new job, I was running as fast as I could from the moment I arrived at work until the time I headed for home, but now, thanks to a tip from a reader (see below) and my time away, I've adopted a new attitude at work: anything worth doing is worth doing slowly. I'm finding, to my pleasure and surprise, that I'm actually getting more done.
I'm also learning to ask for help. At work, I've gotten support from others, including my boss, the president of the Board, my daughter (who came in and did some data entry for me) and my previous employer (who I brought in as a consultant). Its great to have other people around who understand what I'm dealing with. I'm doing the same thing with my School of the Seasons writing, as you will see in the article below.
Blessings of slow time,
Slow Time Tips from Readers
Two readers sent me Slow Time tips in response to my posting of Take Back Your Time Day (October 24) on my October calendar.
Synnoveah wrote to say that she is re-reading Diana Gabaldon's series of six historical novels. Each is 700 to 800 pages long, a great way to slow down, and they're full of rich historical detail, and some great erotic interludes. I'm a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon as well, although I'm not as far along in the series. I've had the pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon several times at the Surrey Writers Conference and she is a funny and fabulous person as well as a passionate writer and researcher.
Kirstie from London wrote to say that she had just gone back to work on Take Back Your Time Day after a two-week holiday in a village on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, "the kind of place where families can spend a couple of hours just sitting outside their house chatting to neighbours occasionally, but mainly watching the world go slowly by in a comfortable silence." Upon her return to London, Kirstie was "immediately struck by how strained everybody looked rushing from task to task." She resolved to slow down a little and since she spends most of her day at a computer, she noticed her frustration when a process would take more than 20 seconds to run. Before her holiday she would have tried to start something else while waiting, thus overloading her brain and her computer. Now she writes: "when that little egg timer appears, I imagine that I am a wise old lady in black and I sit back and wait for it to finish."
Don't you think all of our lives would be easier if we started responding to our computer's hourglasses and ticking clocks by taking a deep breath and relaxing?
Living in Season: Honoring the Ancestors
On Halloween, it is said, the veil between the worlds is thin, and the dead can come back to visit us. In an earlier time, when the ancestors were revered, instead of viewing this with the ghoulish fear that pervades American Halloween, we would have been glad for the opportunity to reconnect with the spirits of those who have left our world.
Halloween evolved from a Church holiday known as All Hallows Day which honors the beloved saints on November 2nd. On the previous day, All Souls Day, people go to church to pray for the souls of their beloved dead.
This holiday is known as I Morti in Italy where children often put out treats for their ancestors who leave them presents (much like Santa Claus) and as Dia de la Muertos in Mexico where it's a time of celebration. People set up altars in their homes to welcome back the spirits of those who have died. Food offerings are placed on the altar along with candles, incense and flowers.
As a way of giving myself a little breathing room, I thought I'd share suggestions for honoring the ancestors during the Days of the Dead which have been passed along to me by friends, readers and the women in my Autumn Online correspondence course.
Tricia, who lives near Reading in England, shared these instructions for a Days of the Dead ritual:
Collect a basket of (dry!) petals or leaves and scatter these to make a circle with an opening from the west. Sit inside the circle, facing west, with one large candle and a series of tea lights. Then gradually light one tea light at a time to call in those people who you have known and who have died, and for each one, spend some time remembering them, as if you were describing them to someone else (or you could share this with other people and listen to each others stories). Then when the telling is done gradually extinguish the candles one by one, (including the main candle if you are comfortable with that) and sit in the dark and listen to see if you can sense your ancestors and loved ones around you. And finally, when you are ready relight the main candle and bid goodbye to your people.
Tricia has done this for several years. Sometimes she adds jack o'lanterns to "guard" the space. Sometimes she shares a glass of wine and bread while sitting in the dark.
Janice from Delaware attended an ancestor ritual at the Kripalu Center in the Berkshires led by Mother Maya. During this ritual, participants mixed together black sesame seeds (or black rice) with a liquid (oil, water or milk), then poured the mixture into a large bowl while reciting the names of their ancestors. Afterwards they offering was left outside where birds and animals could eat it. The ceremony was closed with the recitation of a mantra wishing a blessing upon the ancestors.
Another day the participants made a huge mandala out of grains, beans and seeds to nourish the ancestors. Afterwards, they scattered the seeds, beans and grains outside, again so that the offering would not be wasted. I know the Romans connected beans with the souls of the dead, and early monks would cook up big pots of fava beans on All Soul's Day, probably for the same reason. Leaving the beans out as offerings is similar to the custom of soul cakes, which evolved into trick-or-treating.
Bev Anderson of Seattle celebrated the Days of the Dead last year by putting up a photo of her parents over her meditation altar. She prayed for them, blessed them and released old judgments and grudges. That felt so good that she kept doing this every day during the month of November. Eventually she started asking them to pray for and bless her. She added a picture of her brother, and then her ex-husband, then other relatives. Since her mother and father both came from big families, she has 36 aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom have died. She spent time in front of her altar, remembering who these relatives were, the good times they shared and how they had contributed to her life. She writes: "In a way all my beloved (and sometimes not-so-beloved dead) stated to feel like my own cheering section. Some years ago I had a near death experience, while I was sitting on the ceiling in the beautiful golden light looking down on my body; I had a great sense of loved ones waiting to welcome me. I had never given it much thought, but this November honoring of the dead brings it back to me. When I arrive in heaven, I really expect them to be cheering me on like a foot-ball player coming out of the tunnel at last."
Several years ago, my friend Marguerite, told me about a folk custom which I tried: lighting a candle in every window of the house on Halloween, then blowing them out at midnight and making a wish to be granted by the ancestors. I've known for years that the candles we burn in pumpkins on Halloween represent a way to invite the dead back, a lantern in the darkness so they can find their way home. But wandering through my house at night, with the candles flickering in each window, I felt enfolded and protected by the ancestors in a way that I've never experienced quite so tangibly before.
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.
Winter Correspondence Course
November 1st marks the shift into Winter, at least it does here at School of the Seasons. Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered in the Winter correspondence course, click here.
For an overview of the correspondence course, click here.
Signs of Autumn and Winter
Susan of Trenton writes that she resists the idea of cooking during the summer but as the balance of light and darkness shifts, she feels compelled to cook, especially soups and baked goods. She writes: "This has happened to me as long as I can remember."
Kim from Fort Worth sent this message on October 7:
We had our first real day of Autumn yesterday; cool, crisp winds blew in to town along with overcast skies. It has been such a welcome relief from the heat wave that we experienced 10 days ago (up to 104!!).
And Peta from Boston sent these signs that are edging into Winter:
I always know it is Halloween here because a lady on my street, grandmother to two, hangs great paper stuffed ghosts in the tree on her front lawn. The leaves started green, but they are now slowly turning yellow - the ghosts seem spookier against this backdrop. When the leaves fall and the tree is bare, they are positively frightening in the chill Boston evening.
Another 'event' that is becoming a common sight here is the furious nut collecting and burying amongst the squirrel population. They hustle about the street quickly, snatching scraps from the ground and furtively bury them where they think no one can see. It is so much fun to observe them covertly from the car, the balcony, the tree across the way!
Send me your signs of the season and Ill post them on my website.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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