Category Archives: Seasonal Savvy

Christmas, a Primer

IMG_8292Well, here we are again.
I know Christmas must be coming because my mail box is crammed with catalogs. These books, magazines, and TV shows too, with all their commercials are so helpful: they point out to me just what I need to celebrate Christmas. According to these sources, if you have enough money, you can buy Christmas, you really can. Then there are the PBS kinds of programs that are touting what might be called the anti-commercial Christmas. According to them, having a good Christmas is all about family crisis, deal with it in just the right way and the meaning of life will be revealed to you. Most of us will never have the money we are being asked to spend on Yuletide cheer and (hopefully), we don’t have any trouble in the relationship department, so what are we going to do for the holidays this year?

The more the media streams into your house, the more unsatisfying your Christmas plans are going to look. Listen long enough and suddenly the decorations and gifts you thought were just perfect are not nearly enough and what could you have been thinking? When we are shown endless images of elegant homes, alight and festooned with every kind of greenery, and underneath twin ten foot tall trees, dozens of brightly wrapped cutting edge presents sit, it’s far too easy to get the Martha Stewart Complex. How can we compete with that? Not when we face our crummy little living rooms with the scuffed window sills and a crooked tree hung with homemade egg carton ornaments. A décor consisting of a plastic wreath, a papier-mâché Santa Claus, and a couple red candles bought back in 1985.

Of course decorations are always nice but, how many do we need to feel festive? If ideal images get implanted in our heads and let’s face it people, Madison Ave is counting on its cash box that they will, expectations for this holiday season are soon sent into the stratosphere. We’ll push ourselves onto a treadmill of shopping, cleaning, baking, and decorating. The errands will be endless, and we won’t even know we had Christmas at all.

If Christmas is really in our hearts how do we find it? We can start by looking at what we have, instead of what we don’t. Comparing our lives to anyone else’s is never going to give us any satisfaction. Turn it off, turn it all off. If we’re being barraged by the Christmas media blitz, we won’t be able to hear our own voice, let alone follow it. We, each of us, know how to personally celebrate this time of year, what feels fun and right to us and our respective families. No one can tell us what makes or breaks a holiday but us.

A tree, a bowl of pinecones, a few cookies, almost anyone around here can have that and it’s all good. Open the curtain and include some sensational outdoor scenery in all your finishing touches. Whatever you do to spruce up (pun intended), the place though, it won’t matter a darn if the family is fighting and you’re stressed or depressed. Harmony is the result of relaxation. On Christmas we want to wave that wand and have everything perfect. We’re always stalking that childhood place in our memory, (ether real or imagined) where for one magical moment everything was perfect. That is the truth too: it was a moment.

Moments and our observation of them, freeze time and give us an awareness of life. Suddenly we see some implicit wholeness in everything, a symmetry where we have a place and even belong. Forget the greeting cards, moments have the power to give us all the emotional messages we’re longing to receive right now: the excitement of a rebirth, the thrill of nature’s majesty, the joy of knowing we are loved. Catch a moment and discover a way to deepen the meaning inherent in any season.

Even though they don’t last very long, moments grow into vivid memories that become an important part of our lives. I remember Christmas Eve a few years ago, I was shoveling the mailbox out of yet another snow bank when, a gust of wind blew a great clump of snow from one of the tallest fir trees, sunlight caught the shower and turned it into a curtain of diamond brilliance. A million white stars flew through a cobalt sky and swirled around me, the show was breathtaking. With that wind, I was thrust into a moment, standing on a winter road, in the middle of the world, alive, aware, and dazzled. At that moment I thought: Christmas is here, right here and I didn’t have to do a thing. There was a mystery there that I don’t’ pretend to completely understand.

Now of course, we can’t wander around the woods all day looking for some spectacular spontaneous display. We can’t predict magic, but we can stand still and be open to it. Christmas is above all, a feeling. One we won’t feel if we are too busy thinking of what we have to do next. If we’re sharing some time by the tree with family and friends, walking around in the snow, drinking a cup of cocoa by the window, or watching the birds, our feelings will have free rein. These are the moments that will give us a quiet chance to hear what is in our own heart. In that space of time, without any help from advertisers, we’ll know just what makes the wonder of Christmas, Solstice or Hanukkah and we won’t have to go shopping for it anywhere because it’ll be right there, with a reverence.

Here’s wishing you all a holiday season filled with your own magic moments.

A Winter’s Tale

Overcoming Personal Barriers or How I Spent the Winter of 2013-14

It’s been a very harsh winter for most of us. The nightly news reports are full of weather-related disasters and the people dealing with them. Winter in the north always hands out its share of challenges, especially to those who are unprepared for the reality.

I have been away from this blog for a long time.  I set it aside temporarily, to publish my first book. I decided to self-publish this tome in every sense of the word. I did everything myself: the artwork, the cover, the formatting, you name it. I had no idea just how hard this would turn out to be…for me, that is. I am a “big picture” kind of person and I hate picky little details. I hate forms of all kinds, and the only thing I hate more than reading instructions is following them. Needless to say, this is a big problem if you want to publish a DIY book. It figures that I am also in the middle of my second Saturn Return. For those of you who don’t speak astrologese it doesn’t matter, you’ll get this because we all go through it; astrology just has a name for it: Saturn. Saturn is the planet that rules reality as we know it. When under Saturn’s influence you have to deal, deal, deal with the set rules of the situation. No skipping steps, no cheat sheets, and definitely, no cutting in line. Not coincidentally, Saturn, and its sign, Capricorn, preside over winter as well.

 Wherever we live, there comes a time for all of us, when a certain harsh reality sets in. We are beset with rules we cannot break and duties we cannot shirk whether we want to or not. We feel trapped and for the moment, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. It’s hard. There are days I’ve felt like screaming. Ok, I did.

Saturn challenges your authority. Who is the author of your life? You, or something/someone else? Do you have enough knowledge? (For me, the answer was no) Do you have enough fortitude? (Um, maybe that’s all I have) Do you want it enough to pay the price? (I think so) Are you prepared? (Oh, heck no)

 How to get through this? “Play the breaks”. If you are relating to this entry, than that is a Plimsouls song worth listening to. “Play the breaks” is also a great expression that asks us to basically, look for the silver lining in the thundercloud over our head. If you’re stuck in a box what is the up side? There must be something good about the situation, though we may have to look really hard to see it. After my initial breakdown, I did discover some perks. After having to learn through some ridiculous trial and error, I learned to focus, to slow down, to work hard, and to have patience. (Ok, still working on that one) I feel I have been tested in the fires of hell but now I have a measurement of how strong I truly am and what I am capable of. Things I couldn’t seem to finish, I have finished. Completion is everywhere in my life, even coming into some of my previously fragmented and frustrating dreams. What a rush to feel your own strength. Though, there is no doubt that this has been torture, I am inhaling my “new and improved” authority in, right through the pain.

As Thomas Paine said: “These are the times that try [wo]men’s souls” and there hasn’t been a lot I could do about it except keep putting one foot in the front of the other and make the most of it until it is over. And it will be over; we all know that, like winter, hard times cannot last.    

 For those who may be interested, my book, Earth Rise: The Case for Studying and Using Earth in Astrology is out in all electronic reading formats (Kindle and smashwords) and will be out in paperback POD (print-on-demand) through, when I get the dang cover issue fixed, hopefully, March of 2014. P.S. Arrugh!


The Spring Equinox and Seasonal Savvy


An April Heleborus

I am a little slow in addressing the vernal or spring equinox that occurred March 19 2012 at 10:14 pm PDT. Slower still, because this year was one of the earliest equinox by date since 1896.

Looking to live life deeper can be very shamanistic. People who live in a shamanistic way take into account the spiritual or ethereal side of everything and they explore the connections, the relationships, of one thing to another. A natural outcome of this is balance, a balance of work with play, self with others, male with female, technology with nature. What we are looking for is integration: a personal life that is also part of ALL LIFE. This is an expanding experience, one that makes life very, well… alive.

The foundation of shamanistic living consists of consciousness and awareness, to know what is happening and to somehow become a part of it, to be engaged. One way to do this is to observe the cycle of the seasons and understand how it affects us.

 Most of us go through our day without much thought to what the earth is doing today. We probably notice whether it is sunny or raining but we’ve been pretty programmed to ignore any other earthly activities as beyond our immediate concern, care or involvement.  As a result things sneak up on us. We are susceptible to the shock of seasonal shifts. We don’t get a chance to become acclimatized and that can leave us with an adjustment hangover: sometimes known as Spring Fever. Being mentally and emotionally aware of outside occurrences puts us in sync with the vibrational level of our reality and gets us poised to take advantage of forthcoming opportunities.

 Let’s get a seasonal edge today.

Spring is official when the sun moves into the sign of Aries right at 0 degrees. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac in astrology, ruled by the planet Mars and Mars is in charge of action. The sun is in a sign for one month or for 30 degrees. For 30 days we are all under the influence so to speak, of the sign the sun is in for that month. We can see this in the actions we take every year at this same time.  This is all very intellectual, but what does it mean for us commuters?

We have just come from winter, a time of cold and (perhaps) snow. This is the season we stay home because the weather is usually forbidding much activity. We tend to pull indoors out of the biting wind. Naturally we are a little more internal and contemplative. We may read, play cards, or perish the thought: watch more TV.

When the vernal equinox arrives, especially here in the country, we are catapulted out of our hibernation and into a lifestyle very much more active. Spring chores line up like rows of new daffodils each demanding immediate attention.  Sometimes the temperatures turn from cold to hot on a dime.

Another reason for the (apparently sudden) seasonal whiplash is the way we catalog the seasons. You’ll hear me complain about this a lot. In ancient times (especially in the Celtic regions) they used calendars that were more intimately connected to the natural world and far better suited to explain the natural rhythms around us than our current one is. Feb 2nd was considered the beginning of spring. This is the time we really notice the days are getting a little longer and the seeds, although still deep in the earth, are nevertheless starting to stir and wake up. It was the first stirring of the season. The name given to that date was Imbolc, meaning: “in the belly” (of the earth).  When the sun enters Aries at the vernal equinox they would say that we are in the MIDDLE of spring.

Red Maple Buds

Now, as the ever lengthening day meets up with the ever shortening night we get a sense of a doorway. We’re in a celestial doorway. We are poised, or paused, one might say, in the calm before storm of summer.  Yet, we only have our hands on the latch. We’re opening it and standing in that place where we must now switch our mental and physical gears from the quiet of winter to the riot of summer, from inactivity to ACTIVITY.  It’s not too late, but we do have to take a breath and consider our position.

So what do we do to tell ourselves that we need to make a shift, to put ourselves in tune with this seasonal vibration that is rattling our cages and shaking out the complacency of our own winter hibernation?

We can conduct a spring ritual. Rituals can be physical acts that tell our consciousness something is occurring by mimicking on a smaller scale, the larger happening. They act as a mirror of the happening, reflecting back to us in better detail some concept that might be too abstract for us to grasp with our mentality alone.

Many of us already do spring rituals without realizing it. We switch the blankets on our beds from heavy to light weight. We plan our gardens and order seeds. We pack winter coats back in the mothballs. We give the house “Ye old spring cleaning”. As we do those things we can be more conscious of the significance of the chores. We can go a step further and put on plays that tell the stories of spring. We can even do more intense and focused rituals like lighting a fire in a pit, beating a drum and singing a song to honor this time and our place in it. Then there is always a hike or picnic to look for wildflowers or birds, camera in hand.

The main thing is to prepare for new activity in whatever way seems right to you. You may decide to begin a new project, or turn the heat up on one that is floundering. This is an excellent way to embrace the energy of Aries and Mars, synonymous with springtime.

Whatever you do, if you do it with the intention of beginning the cycle again, in step with the season around you, you may find yourself just a little more aware, a little more focused, a little more productive, and even a little more relaxed, ready to take advantage of any spring potential and turn it over to a summer more than just scenic.

Copyright 2012 CLCW

Autumn Poem






Geese honk October’s byword
In a sky suddenly a deeper shade of blue.

The secret season is here.
And leaves like Jack O’ Lanterns glow,
A final bonfire of color before the winter white.

Summer finery falls away to reveal stems of substantial strength
Ready for storms to come
Wild winds rattling dead grasses,
Lay the land bare like a skeleton bones

While inscrutable shadows creep across the landscape,
Creating moody kaleidoscopes with dizzying speed,
Exciting artistic inspiration ~C.W.

Winter Solstice 2005

The snow is piling up on Black Pine Mountain and it seems downright refreshing after the dormant dryness of last year. The dark is a bit depressing and I never get over how fast it falls. One minute it’s day and the next, the stars are out.
There is plenty of dark now; we’re approaching the longest night of the year. Since summer, the sun has been sliding south, taking the light with it, days growing shorter by the minute. On December 21, Sol reaches the farthest point south and it’s as far away as it can get from us Northerners. This explains the very long night. Meanwhile, the Australians are baking on the beach till all hours.
For centuries the Winter Solstice, or Yule, has been celebrated all over the world as a powerful yet festive time for good reason. The autumn equinox showed our ancestors a sun that was slipping away day by day and they had no assurance that it would ever return. If it kept going, they were all doomed.
By the solstice there was near panic. They needed comfort and craved some control over their destinies. So they began to develop elaborate rituals to encourage the sun’s return. They lit bonfires on the hilltops, imitating the sun’s light and heat, a way of honoring what the personal fireball did for us.
They Looked everywhere for a sign that life wasn’t completely gone and would perhaps return to full flower in time. They searched for what still might be living and green in the soil of their natural world.
The evergreens were a sign. They cut fir or pine trees and brought them into their homes in a celebratory way. If these trees were alive then surely they would have a chance also. They devised an ornament made from the trees branches, a circlet of evergreen boughs to hang on the door, this was another symbol of the sun and through sympathetic magic perhaps it could be encouraged to come back their way again.
Then, wonder of wonders the sun did return, the light was born again and all rejoiced at the Yuletide. Life on Earth would continue.
If this theme strikes you as somewhat familiar, it is. Before Jesus was a glimmer in Mary’s eye, people celebrated this life affirming holiday and revered it as a time of renewal and the moving out of darkness. When the Christian priests wanted more followers for their new religion they decided that the solstice was a good spot to place the birth of Jesus.
The symbolism was apropos and, besides everyone was partying anyway, the people might just be persuaded to celebrate Jesus instead of the Earth. I’ve been told that the Bible hints at Jesus’ actual birthday being sometime in the fall. At any rate it worked pretty well.
I think that it is important to know the true history of things so that we understand what we take for granted and why. One problem that arises in shifting the celebration from the natural world to that of a holy man is that we no longer feel we belong to our own earth. Our spiritual emphasis has become human-centered, no longer do we revere and celebrate the Earth and all that live on her.
This may seem like a (deceptively) trivial point at this time of year but having all the old celebrations of nature and the seasons removed from our psyches has helped to cut the cord of kinship with our very surroundings, snowballing into an appalling human apathy when it comes to our planet and home. How can we talk about the winter wonderland while tossing an empty beer can into it? We got control and lost the connection.
As you sit by the fire on December 24, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to celebrate Christmas or Yule. They are equally religious and beautiful holidays and past misdemeanors really don’t matter anymore. The theme is still one of bringing light into our homes and hearts and remembering to love.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs let them include one of the greatest gifts God or Goddess gave us: the earth. That said, Jesus is part of the godhead, but so is the earth – so how can we sing the praises of one and ignore or even harm the other? It makes no sense to me.
What matters this holiday season is that we choose to revere and honor all of life and the spirit of the God/Goddess inherent in it – called Jesus, the Earth or our other fellow beings.
So in that spirit, go on out and commune with some stark, yet still quite lovely scenery. The way the snow shines like a million diamonds on the hill, the color of the birds at the feeder all flutter and fancy in the still air, the whisper of a deer walking through the woods, a gentle reminder to slow down and breathe within our busy lives.
These are things we can enjoy with or without money and they bring us ever closer to a connection with the incredible life we’ve been given and the beauty of it.
When we stop and turn our attention to the natural world, and care for it, we raise our awareness of a gift we may have forgotten we have and help us to feel gratitude for who put us here. It all leads to the same place of holy reverence because we are all part of the same life force, are we not? It’s a circle, but we have to make more of an effort now, because we have no routine seasonal ceremonies to remind us of the honor we hold.
During this time of rebirth, let’s give rise to an attitude of inclusiveness, along with the love and joy, embracing not only our fellow human hearts and minds, but the others we share this planet with. For by honoring them we honor their (and our) Maker.
May the power of the season continue to inspire you throughout the year, Merry Christmas and Happy Yule.


Halloween 2005

The sky is turning ash grey and orange at twilight. The frosts have deepened and outside: all is still. The trees are almost bare, the last of their leaves rattle in the wind like a skeleton’s bones. The air is so crisp that when you take a breath, it’s like biting into an apple, an introduction to the chill of winter.

Halloween as the beginning of winter makes far more seasonal sense than the end of December when winter is almost half over. I see our blind allegiance to the present (fairly meaningless) traditional naming of the seasons as another symptom of a lost sense of rhythm with the earth. Yet, if we follow this seasonal thread to its logical conclusion we will see why All Hallows Eve is not only the first day of winter but also why it became spooky to so many.

Halloween is a time fraught with many varieties of vertigo.

The autumn colors are no doubt, beautiful, but they also mean death. We are all but surrounded by the falling leaves, dying plants and dead insects. The sun is not spending very much time with us either and what little there is of it is slanted and low. The outside world is folding it in for a very long night. Sometimes we may wonder: how did we get so lucky to live through it? There was a time when that was in doubt.

Long ago when we made a more direct living from the land, the spring and summer months were times of ease, food was abundant and hunting was a leisurely affair. Then October swung around. As the weather grew colder the harvest became more frenzied. Soon the snow would fall. Everything possible had to be picked preserved without the help of freezer or refrigerator.

There would be no stopping by the grocery store to stock up, what we grew and gathered and preserved was all we had to see us through a very serious time of lack. In addition to the seeming death of the natural world, this was also the time of year when we slaughtered most of our livestock. It was necessary, we needed the extra food and there was no way we could support feeding a lot of animals through a time we could barely sustain ourselves. The pigs or sheep set aside were only breeding pairs to begin again next spring. As we watched the herd dwindling down we must have agonized: how many must die? Did I keep the right cows? How we must have felt looking at the larder, rows of jars, salted meat, baskets of apples or cabbages. What will the winter be like? Do we have enough supplies to survive? We were nervous or even scared. With the future so unpredictable, we sought answers, so we consulted oracles: cards, fire coals, or even apple peelings to help plan our next move.

By October 31st all the preparations were over. To signify the end of the harvest many cultures have legends like the Pooka: a mean spirited Irish entity that traveled across the countryside on Halloween night to claim any crops left out as his own. There was to be no more gathering, winter was upon them.

So through the dark doorway of wintertime we pass, uncertainty our guide. It is natural that we now spend time contemplating our own mortality and that age old question: Where do we go when we die? We call it the “other” side and it is said the veil between our world and the other is the thinnest at Halloween. For all our progress in other intellectual pursuits, real knowledge of the spiritual realm still eludes us.
We have not found a way to study and understand something that is in this world but not of it.
Yet, some where deep in our DNA we remember where we were before we got here and may long to connect with that which lies beyond before we die. At the same time, we worry that if we really understood the spiritual realm, how would we cope with such a potentially radically different concept of life? One based on spiritual energies instead of physical form? To make the journey we will have to let go of the familiar and once very necessary. When faced with an unknown quantity such as this, it is easy let our imaginations conjure up devils and hobgoblins, but they are only the skewed physical representations of what is out there and perhaps after us: our own discomfort around any changes we know we must face.

We still carry quite a lot of antique and ancestral unease about Halloween and all it represents. It is logical to associate it with death, and death’s symbols: skeletons, ghosts and zombies. Then there are the animals. Animals that historically were said to be connected to the soul and the soul’s crossing over: Cats, bats and owls. The devil and the hag witch symbol came in with Christianity, an attempt by some church leaders to give warning to all those heathens (people living on the Heath or in the country who had not yet joined their club) that they were in danger of losing their immortal soul. But, we see monsters where we want to see them.

At this time of year we get restless with an outdated and therefore frustrating need to do something, but there is no need now to work harder at this time of year for our preservation. We eat more, blaming it on the colder temperatures and the need for extra fuel. (We’ll store up one way or another). We light Jack ‘O’ lanterns to ward off evil, (our fear of the unknown) and then we spend the night appeasing the masked ones from the other side by dropping candy bars in their bag, so they will leave us in peace and pass by.

Halloween’s many oddities have evolved from the years we spent grappling with our own demons of the past. It now calls us to rise to the challenge of change. To let go of our fears and trust in a power that is both larger then us and intimate to us. Embrace the unknown and have a Happy Halloween.