Monday, December 14, 2015


The Byrd's "Turn, Turn, Turn"

While I don't have "seasonal affective disorder", my personality and mood are very strongly effected by the seasons.  My friends have a saying: "Sara's only unseelie in the winter," and there's a lot of truth in that.  I've written before about the wheel of the year in regards to holidays, but I want to talk about it more broadly, as the underlying "tidal" current of my magical practice.  I think many of us, as magicians, think and talk about the phases of the moon, and the locations of the planets, and the precession of the constellations as powerful forces that influence the magical "circumstances", but we too often ignore the turning of the seasons, the slow, inexorable cycle of growth, death, and rebirth that forms the backdrop of our lives.  I think there are a lot of reasons for that.  Partly, seasonal observation has become very closely associated, in strongly negative ways, with certain kinds of aggressively commodified Wicca.  More importantly, though, seasonal variation is a VERY local phenomenon; not just can I not have a meaningful conversation about it with friends in Brazil, I also experience the seasons very differently that my friends in "similar" climates, like western Europe.  So, in this post, I'm going to write about seasonal change in general, which I think is of use to anyone, no matter where they live, but I'm going to focus on the seasons I know, the MidAtlantic region, and BosWash megalopolis, roughly coextent with USDA ecoregion 221.  And so, before I can talk about my seasons, I have to talk about my (and 45 million other people's) homeland.  

My homeland is a place where land and sea embrace.  On the east, tidal estuaries, like the Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay lie fallow and swampy, fading into rolling hills and broadleaf forest as you move west.  River valleys wind through irregular plains.  Deep, dark, black fertile soil blanket granite and limestone.  Here, Oak is the king of our forests, but hickory, maple, chestnut, and elm are also common.    Rabbit, deer, crow, raccoon, hawk, squirrel, fox, opossum, turkey, grouse; these are the larger animals I think of when I think of home, but bear and bobcat also make their appearances.  As you move closer to the sea, Pine rules twisted barrens, interspersed with birch and cedar.  On the coast, where I live now, nature sometimes feel far away, but there are places you can glimpse what it used to be.  Tall grasses anchor poor and sandy soil, gulls circle overhead, and cranes fish by the water.   And, then, of course, there is the city's own resilient ecosystem; pigeon, rat, morning glory and dandelion.

The weather here can be extreme, wet, hot summers, bitterly cold winters.  It is less harsh in the protected river valleys, where I usually make my home, and less pleasant here on the coast.  However, this year, all bets are off.  Today is December the 14th, and it's currently more than 60 degrees here in CT, and has been for at least a week.  It's not predicted to dip below 50 anytime between now and Christmas.  That's almost 20 degrees warmer than average, and 10 degrees warmer than the previous record.  It's a little creepy, and I'm finding it deeply unsettling.  

I have expressed this opinion to others, who seem to think that I'm nuts.  They ask if I love the cold.  I do not.  Although I do hate extreme heat more than extreme cold, I am often sick when it is cold out.  Some years, bronchitis settles into my lungs in November and doesn't leave until March.  I do not love winter.  And yet, I find this pseudo-spring unnatural.  Flowers are beginning to blossom.  Mist lies heavy on the land each morning, and birds sing long into the evening; the nights are too long to be so warm, and yet they are.  

In our region, winter's first cold breezes typically begin to blow in late October, and it is highly unusual to have not had first frost by Thanksgiving.  And yet, here we are, a week before the Longest Night, and it has yet to freeze.  Foxglove, and apple, and winter wheat; so many plants require vernalization.  Bulbs cannot flower if they don't freeze first.  And I worry in the other direction as well.  Flowers that should hold back for months are beginning to open.  When it freezes, those buds will die, and many plants cannot produce a second budding.  Mosquitoes and other biting insects thrive on this sort of winter; bloodsuckers will swarm in June.  On a drive through the county on Saturday, I heard frogs, who should be well past croaking by now.  Bear is confused about whether it is time to hibernate, and so am I.  I am scared of this weather, it seems ominous to me, and I don't understand why no one else is troubled by it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm terrified, really. I hate winter weather, but I wouldn't leave New England for any other part of the world. And the weather is deeply upsetting to me right now... because there isn't any.

    A number of years ago now, I spent some time in the company of Conservative Jews at Friday services. I felt it was rude not to participate in the service while the students at my school attended; so I participated and modeled good behavior for the (not always well-behaved) students who were not at home in this particular temple (synagogue?). I remember with fondness reading about "the former rains and the latter rains," and God sending the proper treasures of the year in their due season.

    And now there are no treasures of this season. On Saturday I attended a Yule circle where we celebrating first snowfall, and sleeping bears, and icicles... but there aren't any. It's frightening.