Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 15
November 12, 2005
- My Season: Novel Writing Month
- November calendar up!
- Living in Season: Giving Death
- Advent of Advent
- Correspondence Course: Winter
- Signs of Winter
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
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My Season: National Novel Writing Month
I cleared my schedule months ago in anticipation of National Novel Writing Month which happens every November. National Novel Writing month is a challenge which began in 1999 when Chris Baty and some of his friends decided to write 50,000 words in one month. Now it's a web site and an international phenomenon--this year over 57642 people have pledged to write 50,000 words during November---and Chris Baty has written a book about the process, called No Plot, No Problem.
Of course, at the time I cleared my schedule, I didn't anticipate having a new job as well, which is still taking up a lot of my time. That means I've fallen behind in my School of the Seasons commitments. Both newsletters have been a bit late, and I didn't revise the November calendar until November 9th. Thanks to those of you who wrote to ask me about it--I'm glad to know you notice. I should be sending out the next newsletter close to the end of the month.
Last weekend I went on a writing retreat with my writing group. We stayed in a tiny cabin with a wood stove on the edge of an estuary. It rained constantly and quite heavily all the way there and all the way home and the whole time we were there (except for one brief two hour stretch) which is one reason November is such a great month for writing a novel. (I think the end of Daylight Savings Time has helped too as the darkness seems to encourage story-telling.) We spent two days inside, enjoying good food, telling each other good stories and writing. I'm still not sure how many words I wrote but it was a satisfying experience to put my writing at the top of my to-do list for a weekend.
National Novel Writing Month is based on the idea that quantity is more important than quality, a concept useful to artists. David Bayles and Ted Orland, the authors of Art and Fear, tell a story about a ceramics teacher who divided a class into two groups. One group would be graded on the sheer weight of the objects they produced while the other group would be graded on quality. In the end, it was the class that focused on quantity that produced the best quality. Bayles and Orland point out that all artists make mistakes--we learn from them more than we do from our striving for perfection.
I've participated in National Novel Writing Month three times and although I've never finished the 50,000 words (wish me luck for this year), I did get 45,000 words one year and a rough draft of a second novel in my Seattle PI series. This year I'm working on a third novel in that series. I haven't transcribed all my words from the weekend (no laptop) so I'm still living in the ignorant bliss of hoping that when I transcribe my words I will be on target with my goal which is to write 1,667 words a day. I should be at 18.326 by the end of today.
Blessings of the darkness,
Baty, Chris, No Plot, No Problem, Chronicle Books 2004
Bayles, David and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, The ImageContinuum 1993
November Calendar Up!
As you can see, a lot of things delayed the posting of the November calendar, but it's up now for your enjoyment here.
Living in Season: Giving Death
Right now in Seattle, the sky is covered with clouds and the streets are slippery with rain. Most of the trees are bare; those leaves that remain are dull gold and drab rust under the gray sky. It's the time of the year when I'm supposed to prepare my garden for the winter according to the guidelines of the city gardening program. Last week I spent a few hours at dusk in the rain and mud hacking down spent sweet pea vines, cutting back the raspberries and turning over the sodden soil, trampling under the last remaining greens.
I love this work with a wild ferocity. It always reminds me of a wonderful lecture that I heard the herbalist, Susun Weed, give many years ago (ten?) on the topic of "Giving Death." For years, I've been checking her web site, hoping that she would publish an article on this topic, as I don't think I can do it justice (if you ever get a chance to see Susan speak, I recommend it--she is a marvelous lecturer). But I thought I'd give it a try this year as I'm struggling with these issues in my own life.
Susan's interest in this topic came from her experiences raising goats at her farm and learning center in Woodstock, New York. The female goats were useful for producing milk and baby goats but she found the male goats problematic--they were bad-tempered, smelly and stubborn and had no real value except for providing stud service and she only needed one male goat for that. So she began giving them away and selling them but was discouraged when she heard about the misfortunes they met, including one that died a terrible death from neglect. She wondered if she was excusing herself for her own responsibility to end their lives in a more humane way, if that was indeed going to be their fate.
She began to slaughter the goats she knew she couldn't raise, but she did so with a ceremony that honored their lives. She would inform the goat of the date of its death in advance and, on the appointed day, lead it out to the pasture, decked in flowers, where the goat would be honored with the telling of its life story. Sometimes, she said, the goat would lay its head on the block. The killing blow had to be delivered with a sharp knife and a confident and decisive attitude, otherwise the animal would suffer. It was her job to make it quick.
I think of this story at this time of year because Martinmas is the traditional time of year for slaughtering the animals that can't make it through the winter. It makes sense that we face mortality at this time of the year when death is all around us. In Italy they say, "The turkey has a destiny which ends on San Martino's day."
Most of us will not be slaughtering our Thanksgiving turkeys, but we face endings all the time. As I watch my older dog, Chester, develop health problems, I know I will be facing the question of how and when to end his life. I will probably employ my usual approach to endings: avoiding the issue. Anyone who's taken a class with me knows that while I am fairly consistent about sending out lessons, I fall terribly behind when it comes to sending the final, evaluation email. And I just resigned from writing my "Time to Celebrate" column for SageWoman, even though I've known it was time to end for over a year.
Because I perceive endings as sad and painful, I forget that they have a strange beauty of their own and that they create space for something new to emerge. At this somber time of the year, consider those things that are ending in your life. Perhaps a relationship, a project, a role you've played, a habit you're giving up. Instead of avoiding the pain of ending, face it directly, honor the time you've spent together and celebrate the ending with ritual.
Weed, Susun, www.susunweed.com
Advent of Advent
Pagan Advent and Christian Advent coincide this year with both beginning on Sunday, November 27. If you're interested in new ideas for celebrating this magical time of waiting for the return of the Sun (or the Son), check out my article on Advent here.
Or order The Advent Sunwheel, Helen Farias's collection of four tales of the Scandinavian winter deities, appropriate for reading at Advent gatherings, along with recipes and other ideas for celebrating Advent. It can be ordered in the store.
$14; allow 10 days for delivery
No email version available yet, but we're working on it.
It was Helen Farias who told me that it is traditional to bake Thirteen different kinds of cookies during the Christmas season, a charge I try to carry out by making three different cookies each week of Advent. You can order my little book of recipes for 13 traditional Winter Holiday cookies here.
$11; allow 10 days for delivery
No email version available yet, but we're working on it.
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 Winter
Karen Karlovich from Seattle sent me this beautiful description of one morning in late October:
Two days ago I had a big surprise when I opened my back door to take some scraps to the compost pile, a mule deer doe was standing between the cedar trees in my back yard. She then solved the mystery of why my birdseed was disappearing so rapidly when she lapped her tongue around the bottom of the feeder. Since the birdfeeder was empty I offered some seeds on a stump, she came & ate while I still stood there, I could have touched her she was so close. When she lifted her head her big brown eyes were at my own eye level. I spent an hour and a half watching her & consequently was very late for work, but it was well worth it. It was a gorgeous morning, when I first went out--the sun had just risen & was shining through the cedar trunks highlighting the red of the witch hazel leaves. The sky was clear & I could still see the slim crescent of the moon that had risen a little before the sun. It was a lovely way to start the day.
I'm looking for signs of winter to post, so please send me your signs of the season and Ill post them here.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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