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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, Number 19
December 8, 2004
Hanukkah begins


  • Welcome
  • My Season: On Retreat
  • December Calendar Up!
  • Call for Artists: School of the Seasons Calendar
  • Living in Season: Silence at Solstice
  • On the Web: The Twelve Days
  • In the Library: Books for the Loner
  • Holiday Packet: Yule
  • Signs of the Season: Winter
  • Winter Correspondence Course
  • Copyright
  • 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: In Retreat
Just like last year, I spent the month of November participating in the National Novel Writing Month (popularly known as Nanowrimo), a sort of writing marathon in which thousands of writers participate each year. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. That takes about 1,666 words a day, every day.

Ala, I only wrote 34,844 words instead of 50,000. I smile when I say that for, of course, without the challenge I would never have written 34,844 words. I learned a lot about my story and my characters. I learned I can write 1,000 words in about an hour. I learned I can write anywhere and for any amount of time. I also learned a lot about my writing process: I'm a slow writer, at most a chapter a week, and it's in the crafting of a detailed scene that I discover what my story is about.

One of the benefits of doing Nanowrimo in November is that when December rolls around it feels like a relief. Earlier this year I had a fit of inspiration and designed a circular calendar for myself that shows the months as pie-shaped wedges of images cut from magazines. As a self-employed person who juggles many different jobs (writing, teaching, School of the Seasons) all of which have their own cycles, I am always overwhelmed by the amount of tasks I had to do at any particular time. And my biggest problem is focus-what's my priority?

I decided to give each month (I debated about weeks and moon cycles but months gave me the right amount of time) a different focus which I illustrated with a picture. So the months of February, April, June and October (lavender fields) are months with a teaching focus; the months of March, June, September and November (lines of text) are writing months, May (a flower with a hummingbird hovering over it) is my marketing month when I concentrate on the marketing tasks I generally avoid (I actually found myself enjoying it this year knowing I was only going to be focusing on marketing for one month), August is vacation (a camel in the desert) and December and January are my months off (evergreens frosted with snow). That doesn't mean I don't teach or write or market during the other months but I know my priority and design my schedule around that. The other nice thing about this calendar is that I don't have to pay any attention to it-for instance, I didn't go on vacation in August.

But I am, to the best of my ability, going on retreat in December and January. Though I've extolled the value of hibernating and the importance of rest in the natural cycle I've never taken this much time off. Or declared it so boldly. I'm a bit nervous as I explore this new sensation of "not having anything in particular I have to do." Don't worry, you will still receive newsletters, School of the Seasons orders and Slow Time class installments. But most of my other work has been laid aside so I can spend time reading, dreaming, walking and listening. I hope to emerge from this chosen hibernation with refreshed energy and new ideas for School of the Seasons.

May you enjoy the peace and solitude of this time of darkness before the light returns.

December Calendar Up!
The December calendar is up and has been for several days thanks to my timely webmistress, the amazing Joanna Powell Colbert, who not only keeps my website up to date but is also hosting her usual Santa Lucia party and has just finished creating all the Major Arcana cards for her Gaian Tarot. You can see her art work at: www.gaiantarot.com/majors/

Call for Artists: School of the Seasons Calendar
One of the new ideas that I'm dwelling with and developing during my winter retreat is a School of the Seasons calendar, which I hope to launch in January. I am looking for original visual images (drawings, photographs, paintings, collage) that are seasonal in theme or content. Payment would be in the form of credit, a link to your website and a free subscription to the calendar. If you are a visual artist interested in contributing and have any images that seem appropriate for January or are around the themes of wishing, dreaming, birth and doors, please email me at art@schooloftheseasons.com

Living in Season: Silence at Solstice

Last weekend I enjoyed a perfect day of silence and solitude. For months, I've been sharing my house with my often boisterous daughter who loves to process her thoughts by talking out loud and who creates chaos (shedding clothes, books, pieces of paper, her glasses, etc.) like trees shed leaves in autumn. But on this day she was out with her friends and I had devoted my time to working on my Nanowrimo novel and a deep house cleaning (somehow everyone I know has been gripped by this impulse in the past few weeks). I woke up slowly, sipping my morning tea, writing my morning pages, taking the two dogs for a walk. After breakfast, I sat down in a delicious silence and spent two hours at the computer working on my novel (a historical mystery set in Victorian London), followed by another two hours of satisfying physical labor (moving bookcases, dismantling a broken futon, pulling out boxes from the shadowy recesses of the closet, taking out the recycling).

Another walk with the dogs, a quick lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers, and I started over. Writing followed by a flurry of cleaning, sweeping, dusting. I loved the rhythm of the two activities, the way they balanced each other, with the cleaning grounding me in this reality and the writing sweeping me away. I don't know how I would have felt if my silence and solitude had extended into the night but fortunately my favorite band was playing at one of my favorite dance venues so I got to dress up (in a pair of slinky brown velvet pants I found while cleaning) and go out to talk and dance and flirt far into the night.

The next day was much more difficult. My daughter was back home, watching TV, and I had to figure out how to put back in some kind of useful order all the things I had dragged out from the closet the day before. I realized as I struggled to reconcile my desire to connect with my daughter and my need to organize (which to my surprise required a lot of mental concentration) that I'm a person who needs a lot of solitary time and a lot of silence.

Which reminds me of my favorite winter solstice ritual. Long ago I read in Patricia Monaghan's wonderful Book of Goddesses and Heroines that the Roman goddess of the winter solstice, Angerona, was shown with a bandaged mouth and a finger to her lips enjoining silence. This cryptic description inspired me to create a ritual which I've been practicing ever since. I spend the day of the Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) in silence. I don't answer the phone, I don't use my computer, I don't listen to the radio or watch television. I don't go shopping or engage in any social activities where talking would be expected. I hide the clocks and avoid using anything that requires electricity. My usual activities for the day include sleeping in, reading and going for a long walk in the nearby park. When dusk falls, early of course since it's the shortest day of the year, I light candles instead of turning on the lights and usually go to bed early, after a candlelit bath. I've been celebrating solstice this way for many years and I love my oasis of peace and serenity in the midst of the chaotic holiday season.

On the Web: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Patrick Porter and I have been talking (via email) about the importance of reclaiming the Twelve Days of Christmas, which used to be (and still are in some countries) a period of time out of time, between the end of the old year and the start of the new one. We think no one should have to work during this time and encourage you to think of ways to take time off. I'll write more the Twelve Days in my next newsletter but wanted to give you a chance to plan your escape ahead of time. For more ideas, see Patrick's website.

In the Library: A Book for Loners
Party of One by Anneli Rufus, Marlowe & Company, 2003

Just in time for my solitary winter solstice ritual, I got a copy of Party of One, a wonderful books about loners by Anneli Rufus, who is also the author of the charming World Holiday Book, from which I get many of the quirkiest holidays on my calendar. If you've ever felt defensive explaining why you're not married, or why you hate Thanksgiving (or any other holiday where the culture insists it's bad to be alone), if you're an INFJ or one of those other Myers-Briggs types that represent 1% of the population or if no one takes you seriously when you say you can't answer the phone because you're creating, you'll find much food for thought in this manifesto in praise of the rights of loners. Although I don't agree with all of her points -- Rufus expertly spins every story, even those of happy "joiners" (the term she uses to describe the opposite of loners) to bolster her defense of solitude -- it's refreshing to read a book that points out the insistent and often invisible cultural bias towards sociability, and demonstrates how solitude has long been the sanctuary from which springs many great works of art, theories and inventions.

Holiday Packet: Yule
The Yule holiday packet is a big one: 60 pages stuffed with information on midwinter holidays, magical gift-givers, recipes for Christmas morning porridges and warming beverages, menus for Christmas dinner, instructions for making luminarias and pomanders, and a selection of Yule songs. It's available to purchase in our Store.

I've posted some sample pages from my Yule packet at my website so you can see how it turned out. This link will take you to pages on the tradition of lighting lights in the darkness.

Signs of Winter
Lisa from Vermont sent me her sign of winter: wild turkeys in the meadows. When I expressed disbelief about turkeys she explained that they come out to eat the corn after the stalks have been cut and bits have fallen into the ground. They also fly into cars on the Interstate and cause accidents. She also writes:

Now the leaves are down and the trees are bare. Snow has fallen. (we see snow geese too, in October) The lake (Champlain) sometimes has a little ice crust around the edges. The lupine plants are still spunky. Not much else though except in the woods with evergreens and winter berries.

I love getting a glimpse of the season in so many different places. Send me the signs of the season where you live, and I will post them here.

Winter Correspondence Course
November 1st is the Celtic New Year and the start of winter by the old British reckoning of the season (as illustrated by the alternate name for the Winter Solstice: Midwinter). So it's time to order the Winter correspondence course if you're interested in ideas for aligning with the rhythms of Winter.

The Winter correspondence course is now available. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered, click here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2004.
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