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Archive for the ‘Seasons & Cycles’ Category

At the end of April nature is dying in the Southern Hemisphere.  This is our Halloween, traditionally time to remember our beloved dead.  In Aotearoa the focus is on Anzac Day and those who died in war.  The poppies are gone from my garden, but the naked ladies/amaryllis are about to burst into flower – the first sign of spring-to-come.

Naked ladies bursting forth

Months of cold and darkness lie ahead.  We collect the last of the harvest and store it against the leaner times.  I’m going out to spread some compost, and scatter seeds for the coming year.  Recent sunny autumn days have been a golden indication that the seasons change and all is cyclical.

“The wheel is turning through the year
and right now autumn’s gold is here.’

 

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24 hours after the patio was flooded, we were breakfasting outside in 20 degree sunshine.  Our weather is certainly changeable!  Now that we’ve stepped aside from paid work, every day is a holiday, but we can’t help joining in the general pleasure of a holiday weekend.  For Easter Saturday Stephen made us a special breakfast of Oefs en Cocotte.

Chicken and mushroom, together with a baked egg, make this especially delicious.  We sipped our tea or coffee, leisurely read the “Press’, and thought lazily about how we might spend the rest of the day.  I hope my readers are all enjoying their Easter break.  Great to hear that so many volunteers are helping those in the Bay of Plenty to sort out the aftermath of Cuclone Cook.

“Although each day’s a holiday
today’s a special time to play.”

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Easter is a spring celebration of fertility and rebirth.  In autumnal Aotearoa, beset by the winds and rain of Cyclone Cook, it’s the wrong time for this festival.  Spring for us is months away, despite pots of daffodils being offered in the supermarket.

In the Southern Hemisphere this is a time of dying.  During the last week I’ve spoken at the funeral of a loved friend, and there have been two other deaths in my wider circle.  The demise of John Clarke/Fred Dagg was a poignant reminder of the Easter death of my brother, who also died while bushwalking in the Grampians.

The rich colours of the trees around me are a sure sign that the wheel of the year is turning, and a poem by Nancy Wood is brought to mind:

“You shall ask
What good are dead leaves
And I will tell you
They nourish the sore earth
You shall ask
What reason is there for winter
And I will tell you
To bring about new leaves
You shall ask
Why are the leaves so green
And I will tell you
Because they are rich with life
You shall ask
Why must summer end
And I will tell you
So that the leaves can die.”

 

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Monday 20th March is the date when night and day will be equal.  After this our days in the southern hemisphere will slowly get shorter and the nights longer.  We will move from summer to winter, from light to dark, and from outer to inner.  The equinox is a time of balance throughout the globe, one of the two times of the year when both hemispheres have days and nights of equal length.

Our ritual group met to celebrate this festival, with a meditation that encouraged us to consider what our psychological harvest might be, and how we might sustain ourselves through the darker time.  We each received a small parcel of seeds to take home and plant, in preparation for spring.

“If only the whole world could be
in balance psychologically.”

 

 

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As yesterday was Shrove Tuesday we had pancakes, or rather crepes, the thinner version that is my preference.

crepes-small

The day is named for the Christian custom of being ‘shriven’ before Lent.  The idea was to go to confession and be given absolution.  Pancake day was the time to use up rich foods such as sugar, milk, and eggs, before starting the Lenten fast.

Spring fasting (in the northern hemisphere) dates back to Roman times.  The women of Rome observed a period of chastity and fasting throughout the Kalends of March after their Matronalia or Feast of the Mothers, until the festival of Ceres in April.  This custom, originally intended to ensure the fertility and vitality of the crops, was copied by the Christian church and converted into the forty day fast of Lent.

“For forty days eggs would not last
so eat them up before you fast.”

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The beginning of February is the festival of Lammas, or First Fruits.  It’s the start of the harvest, when we look forward to what the full harvest may be.  Our group focussed on the many things we have to be grateful for, and we each filled a ‘gratitude jar’ with symbols.  I put a fairy sticker on the lid of my jar to indicate my gratitude for the magic and spontaneity in my life.

gratitude-jar-small

What fruit is ripening in your life right now?  This pagan chant reminds us that all life is cyclical:

“Corn and grain, corn and grain
all that falls shall rise again.”

 

 

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apricots-small

We drove up the Horotane Valley (by the end of Port Hills Rd) to get these luscious tree-ripened apricots.  They were $5 a kilo, and far superior to those offered in the supermarket.  The apricot shop will be open until the end of January, and they also have tomatoes and cucumbers.

When I was a child there was an enormous apricot tree in our back garden and we feasted on these every January.  My mother gave away boxes of them, filled dozens of preserving jars, and made apricot jam.  One year, when my brother was doing his compulsory military training, learning to fly Tiger Moths at Taieri Aerodrome, my mother, not wanting him to miss the annual harvest, sent a crate of apricots down by rail.  My brother later told me that while they were appreciated they were completely unnecessary as he was enjoying five course dinners in the officers’ mess.

“These Horotane apricots
remind me of my childhood – lots.”

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