Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 16
November 26, 2005
- My Season: Scrambling to Catch Up
- Feedback Loop: Goats and Compost
- December Calendar Coming Soon!
- Living in Season: Advent Wreath Making
- Yule Gifts from School of the Seasons
- Correspondence Course: Winter
- Signs of Winter
- 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: Scrambling to Catch Up
Doesn't time seem to speed up at this time of the year?
I was talking to my daughter last night about getting the Advent Sunwheel ready so we could send it out via email when we both realized that this Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. So I'm spending the day at home finishing the formatting (which she began) of the story, recipes and songs for the first week. See below for ordering details. Tomorrow I will go out looking for the evergreens for my Advent wreath (although today is officially Wreath-Making Day).
I might have been distracted because I've been so absorbed in writing my seven pages a day for National Novel Writing Month. Suddenly there are only three days left in the month and I have eight scenes and 20,000 words to write. I don't think I'll make my goal of 50,000 words but I'm happy with what I've accomplished: a rough draft of a new novel and a habit of writing 1,000 words a day, in about an hour. I've also reclaimed my identity as a writer which makes me feel better about my new role as a bookkeeper.
Insight comes from funny places and this week I realized what I've been mourning for the past months (and sharing with you in my increasingly somber articles): the loss of my dream of being self-employed. I was reading a great memoir called Confessions of a Tax Collector (well-written, witty and scary, although the IRS reforms have eliminated some of the scarier aspects of this job). Suddenly I saw myself from the other side when the author, Richard Yancy, talked about those people who keep trudging along in their losing businesses, pleading for clemency, believing there will be some new contract or client that will suddenly bail them out. I've allowed myself to get into debt always believing that everything would be OK once I sold a book (I did have two out last year, one with an agent and one with a publisher but neither of them has sold as of this date).
Don't worry. I haven't given up on my dream. I am plotting my return to self-employment and I still believe my dreams will come true. But right now I'm viewing my day job as a relief rather than a punishment and getting excited about the things I can do with my more stable income, like going to Italy, or self-publishing my Slow Time book, or taking classes towards a PhD from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Of course, that's after I pay off the IRS.
Blessings of the returning light,
National Novel Writing Month:
Yancy, Richard, Confessions of a Tax Collector, Harper Collins 2004
Thanks so much to all of you who sent me stories and comments in response to the Giving Death article I wrote for the last issue. People either loved it or hated it, but I appreciated all the feedback, including an interesting article on how to castrate male goats.
Fred Owens, whose wonderful Frog Hospital newsletters (and now blog) I've been enjoying for years, wrote:
"I feel that way in the garden so many times -- so many plants I have killed. A hundred carrots sprout, I remove 90 of them. I am death. But it all goes around. Some day I will get pruned out myself. The Greater Good will look at me and say -- we could use room for some fresh new growth here, let's pull this one up, and so I go to the Big Compost Heap in the sky. With kindness and certainty. It is a false pity to be squeamish. The garden is good.
Now for the billy goats. I ask for a little sympathy for the males. We men know this subconsciously, and, if we are wise, we know it consciously -- that the herd only needs one bull and the flock only needs one rooster. In our bones and guts is a desperate will to survive -- from which comes violence and war -- but justice comes as well when we face the knowledge that life and nature isn't fair, but our human duty and possibility is to MAKE it fair."
And Gayle sent me the story of the death of her pet goat Chivo. Gayle also owned a Queensland Heeler, G'Day, who
"was an excellent heeling herder and would demonstrate her willingness to heel Chivo any time she thought we were watching her. One time she came to the patio door with a small bloody hole on her forehead from having heeled Chivo one too many times and receiving a goat horn in the face. Nevertheless, I had noticed that if I came around the side of the house and caught the dog and the goat unaware, as often as not they would be sleeping side by side. When Chivo died after ten years in our backyard, the little dog G'Day lay on that spot where they had slept together and where he died, whimpering for the next three days."
Thanks so much for sharing your stories and appreciation with me. I've never had such a rich experience as a writer as I do through these newsletters and your responses.
December Calendar Coming
I haven't sent the December calendar to my web mistress for posting yet, because I didn't notice it was the end of the month until yesterday. But it should be up by the first of December and contain information about all the Winter holidays.
Living in Season: Advent Wreath Making
Since I'm scrambling to get this out before Advent begins, I'm reprinting an article that can also be found here about making an Advent wreath.
The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition for marking the four weeks before Christmas by lighting a new candle each Sunday. Sunday is the preferred day since it is the Sun's day. Pagans adopting the same custom might light a new candle each Sunday for the four Sundays before Winter Solstice.
Gertrud Mueller Nelson in To Dance with God talks about how people in the far north removed wheels from their carts during the depth of winter. They brought these wheels into their homes and decorated them with evergreens and candles. This, Nelson says, is the possible origin of the Advent wreath.
An Advent wreath is a circle of evergreens with places for four candles. When I was growing up, we always used three violet candles for penance and one rose-colored candle (lit on the third week, which is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday) to symbolize the coming joy. Nelson says in her family, they use the traditional red candles and red ribbon to decorate their wreath. I like to use candles in the colors of the four directions: yellow for east, red for south, blue for west and green for north.
Helen Farias in The Advent Sunwheel, her book of suggestions for pagans wanting to celebrate Advent, points out that the Advent wreath, made of greens in a circle shape and lit by candles is a potent symbol. The circle with the dot inside has long been a symbol for the sun and is still used that way in astrology. Helen suggests putting a fifth candle in the center of the Advent wreath, to be lit on the solstice, to make the symbolism more apparent.
There is another kind of wreath which is found in Germany and Scandinavia, made of apples and dowels (chopsticks would work too). Three apples with dowels connecting them in a triangle form the base and the fourth apple is suspended by dowels above the rest, forming a pyramid. The triangle and pyramid are also both sun symbols.
You can see a picture of this sort of wreath here.
Farias, Helen, The Advent Sunwheel, Juno's Peacock Press
Nelson, Gertrud Mueller, To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration, Paulist Press 1986
Yule Gifts from the School of the Seasons
Holiday Packets Around the Year
Thanks to Pattie, one of my subscribers, who asked if the holiday packets were sent out all at once or before each holiday, I've got a new gift idea for you. Like fruit baskets or flower arrangements, you can now send your friends the holiday packets as a year round-gift, either by email or print. We will send the packets 30 days before each holiday. And the first packet will come with a seasonal gift card that includes your name and explains the process. To order click on this link and include the name and address of the recipient(s) in the comments section.
New: Email Version!
My daughter and I are in the midst of re-typing and re-formatting the Advent SunWheel, a collection of four tales of the Scandinavian winter deities, appropriate for reading at Advent gatherings, along with recipes, songs and other ideas for celebrating Advent written by Helen Farias, my mentor and friend. You can order either the print version or the email version here (but please indicate which you want).
The cost is the same for both the print version and the email version as it's taken us about 15 hours (so far) to convert the pages originally created in Pagemaker to a Word document. Since we're still working on this, we'll send the story, recipes and song for the first week this Sunday and the information you need to celebrate the following Sundays a few days later. If you have the print version and are able to help me create a PDF file from it, please let me know. Then I can offer both options in the future.
Thirteen Christmas Cookies
New: Email version!
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.
The Thirteen Cookies book is also now available via email as a Word document so please indicate if you prefer the email or print version when you order.
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
Here are a few of the many beautiful descriptions of the approaching winter in various parts of the world which are posted on my website under Signs of the Season.
Leah from Glasgow, Scotland writes:
The first frost has come to Glasgow. As I was walking to class yesterday morning I saw that the playing fields were completely frosted over and glittering as the sun came up. It's a good thing I left early because I walked so slowly the rest of the way, looking at the ice on the edges of the river and the fluffed-up magpies and the white-edged fallen leaves they looked like they were dusted with sugar. I hope this weather lasts but I'm sure soon it will be pouring rain again.
Mary from Solano County, California writes:
Here in Northern California, the morning air is as fresh and balmy as a March spring day, but with a crisp edge to it, as if a promise of chilly days to come. The autumn leaves fly fast and wide, brighter and a thousand times more colorful and brilliant than any I can recall in my 10 years here. The afternoon sky is so crystal blue and clear it makes my heart ache for New England.
Our winter signs are creeping steadily on: a flock of wild geese fly dark against the crimson, pink, gold and blue sunset, the peeper frog croaks have been replaced by cricket chirps, and the night wind has a wild lustiness that moans through the closed windows and tugs at our skin on our evening walks, daring us to run wild along side in the full moonlight.
To read more or to send me your signs of the season, please click here.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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