Category Archives: seasonal
Daylight Savings time is hard on the body, especially in the spring. I spent much of the weekend indulging my own body clock. That was great, but since I’m more of a night owl, it made the spring forward adjustment even more difficult.
I am doing better than I expected under the circumstances. I attribute that to taking some time out for a Sauna.
Sauna is a social/spiritual/cultural event. There are sauna/sweat practices in many northern cultural traditions. In the Twin Cities there is actually a club, the 612 Sauna Society that was founded to explore and share the Norse sauna traditions.
This month they’ve set up in the courtyard of the Swedish Institute. A good friend decided she’d like to try sauna (she’d never done one) and I got an invite. I chose to see this as a continuation of my birthday celebrations. Especially after last week’s snowstorm I’ve seen lots of people succumbing to the “is winter ever going to be over blues”. Part of the reason I maintain the “older you are longer you get to celebrate” philosophy is to combat that.
It was a perfect day to spend the afternoon sweating. In a Scandinavian setting sauna is usually done in cycles. You warm up to the core and then come out into the cold and cool all the way down. The “rinse repeat” can mean coming out of the sauna and jumping into the snow or a cold lake, doing a cold water splash, or just hanging out. We did three rounds, and mostly skipped the “rinse” part of the program, although it was certainly an option.
The 612 volunteers actually recommended a slower cool down. The quick splash, or even a brisk breeze at colder temperatures, can make you feel ready to return to the sauna before the core has really cooled. We drank a lot of water and cooled off by the fire. Being outside in swimsuits at 30 degrees Fahrenheit was quite sufficient, and quite pleasant.
The time in the sauna was social, but it wasn’t small talk. In many ways the sharing was as much a release of toxins as the actual sweat. There wasn’t a “timer” we were told to listen to our bodies and come out and go in as we would tolerate it. We brought water bottles and the 612 Sauna Society provided water for refills so we were very conscientious about staying hydrated throughout the experience.
It was a time without time. It was a ritual without a lot of ritual. It was an opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of sauna and about each other. It was an opportunity to get in touch and in tune with my own body rhythms. It was cleansing and healing. It was delightful.
Even better is that I can tell the cleansing and healing effects have stayed with me. My desire for just water continues to be high. My appetite is good, but not overwhelming. My aches and pains have eased up considerably. I slept really well. I’m still grumpy about the time though. It shouldn’t be this late yet!
Previous, perhaps relevant, blogs:
This is me still not feeling much like writing. At least this week I’ve been doing the part where I write my blog in my head. That’s an improvement, and better is better.
I watch everyone I know sink into the cabin fever, long winter blues at this time of year. The longer brighter days are great, but they’re not enough when we get yet another 6″ of snow. I’m grateful to have a birthday this week. It gives me something to look forward to and it gives me a reason to get out and celebrate.
I’m grateful for the neighbors, who are Karina’s age. I haven’t had to lift a shovel all weekend and I was able to get out of my driveway to spend Sunday with a good friend wandering through the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo. We are very fortunate to have this haven in the depths of winter.
When you walk in your skin celebrates. There’s moisture in the air! Your eyes delight in the variety of shades of green. The conservatory staff is very contentious about rotating the small plants though so there are always some manner of blooming orchids.
This time I was delighted by how many things were in fruit. There were limes on the lime trees, chocolate pods on the cacao, star fruit and prickly custard apple. (Now I am on a mission to try prickly custard apple or Brazilian paw paw.) We found odd buds and blooms everywhere. In the conservatory hope for spring thrives.
Thursday was an adventure. Karina had the evening off (a rare occurrence) so we’d planned for her to take me out for my birthday. Then her whiskey distributor invited her to a launch party for Jameson IPA. (They age their whiskeys in beer barrels (caskmates) and brew their Irish Pale Ale in whiskey barrels). I was game and we had a good time. It was not too big a party, probably because of the snow (the first 4″ was Thursday, the 6″ was Saturday).
We critiqued the drinks the same way we often have dinner. Debating the merits and downfalls and discussing how to use or adapt the idea. Mostly we were pleasantly surprised. Neither of us are big IPA fans, but the mixed drinks were well balanced and the caskmates added a level of nuance to the whiskey.
I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate your birthday. I started last Thursday and I’ve got plans (so far) through most of March. That’s something else to be grateful for!
Here are a few more photos from the conservatory, in case you needed your own touch of spring:
I’ve written about the Como Zoo before:
I got to spend the weekend up at my folks helping to make a happy birthday celebration happen for my Mom. Fragile is not I word I would ever have thought to apply to my mother. She’s the strong one, who will do whatever is necessary no matter where she is at. She bounces back. Climbing mountains after surgery is something I learned from her. She’s “in charge” and keeping track of all the moving pieces at any event she attends. At 82 today, she struggles to reconcile a self image which she can no longer maintain.
She rarely goes out anymore. It’s hard for her to get around. It’s hard for her to sit in the car for any length of time. When there are a lot of distractions, or conversations going on she gets confused. My Mom has been dealing with chronic pain for a long time. Her allergies are severe and complicated enough that medicating pain isn’t an option, beyond an occasional Tylenol. Her mouth is dry, so eating and talking become impossible when she doesn’t have water at hand.
We took her 100 miles there and another 100 miles back to go out to lunch with a good sized group. I went a few days early so we could get her showered, lay out her outfit and do some massage therapy in advance. Just my presence gives her a space to gather her resources. I make sure her water glasses are always full so she doesn’t have to ask. I put food in front of her rather than quizzing her about what she might want and what is available. I do the dishes and sweep the floors, which are both really big jobs for her. She can bank a little reserve.
For her, it was more than worth it. She had a really good day. She enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to go to bed because she didn’t want the day to be over. My youngest sister couldn’t make it, but all the rest of the female children and grandchildren were in attendance. It was a girls day out. There were lots of leftovers, but she knew I would get them home and see that they were used. The wait staff sang happy birthday and fussed over her desert. We all tried to keep the table conversation with one person talking at a time. There was a lot of love.
I am so very fortunate to be able to help facilitate that kind of good day for my Mom. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to see her out and about and having a good time. It’s a joy to watch her relax and participate and let go of the worry of being “in charge”. I wish I could do more.
Happy birthday Mom!
It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year. In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult. Some of it is of course the darkness. For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.
North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun. At the summer solstice the sun never sets. That means at winter solstice it never rises. Think about that for a minute. A day where the sun doesn’t rise. It’s kind of creepy.
I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun. The snow helps. It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter. The holiday lights help. They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.
The darkness can also be emotional. Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great. They can also build a lifetime of resentment. A death during the season can bring people together. It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year. Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.
Then there is the demand. There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job. If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile. There is a demand on the pocketbook. All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts. When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating. Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.
I lean heavily on just do it. Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things. Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not. Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back. Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.
So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed. I make the phone calls and appointments. I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget. I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income. I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice. Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.
Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house. She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings. I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!
My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise. Karina also didn’t make it. She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet. She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up. Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant. She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos. Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.
We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake. She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped. It was a great treat, especially for me. With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.
Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house. We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework. Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents. Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues. Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything. Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them. I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.
Friday morning we all slept in a little bit. The plan was for a lazy day. Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes. She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids. I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning. You need to go home – today.”
The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather. We were having an unseasonable thaw. All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch. It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report. I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!
So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box. We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat. At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.
It all turned out well in the end. Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home. I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season. I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!
I missed posting last week because of hunting season. We went up to my parents for the week. They don’t have the internet. We were up before dawn bundling up to sit in the cold and back again at dusk. In the meantime there were meals to make, housekeeping to tend to and just visiting.
The area we were in was pretty unrestricted but we did need to have everything inspected. There is a prion, like mad cow disease, that has been invading the deer herds. The state is trying to track its spread. Given that we hunt for meat rather than for trophies this is kind of important.
There are a lot of views on hunting and a lot of reasons to hold those views. I like wild meats and having them makes a significant impact on my very tight budget. My family has always supplemented the grocery budget this way, even the farmers. It makes sense to me to know that something has to die for me to eat.
Participating (even if it just means sitting with a gun in my lap waiting for Karina to shoot something) in this annual ritual is a way to connect to my heritage, my ancestry. Through both lines I come from northern climates, where hunting was an essential food supply. My people were not city folk, and even when they were they stayed involved with natural cycles.
Growing up in my family I’ve cleaned fish, tapped maple trees and weeded gardens. I’ve tried my hand at milking a cow and had pigs, chickens, and goats butchered to accommodate my visiting the farm. I’ve always known where my food came from.
Karina’s generation is even further removed from food sources than mine. As a chef food is important to her. In taking up hunting she is also committed to learning how to field dress an animal, how to process it and of course how to prepare the meat. The fact of the matter is that she’s the one doing all the work. I’m just making space in my freezer.
This year hunting was also an exercise in support. As my parents age it is become difficult for them to be as independent as they’d like. My Mom worries about my Dad’s eyesight. She worries about him carrying a loaded gun through the woods, tracking a deer on uneven ground. My Dad worries about my Mom being left alone too long. She has trouble getting around and has taken a fall or two herself.
Going up this year we could pretty much be sure My Dad wouldn’t have to go out alone. We could set Mom up for comfort and give her a “check-in” call before we wandered too far off. Orion stayed inside so they could “look out for each other”. Karina took charge of all the carrying. She says the beer kegs she’s been weighing each week at work are heavier than the deer. She also appreciates how easily things slide when you drag them on snow.
Now that I’m home I can look forward to some tasty meals. When I have them I’ll be grateful. I will be grateful for the deer that sacrificed its life. I’ll be grateful for my daughter taking care of me. I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to make memories with my parents. I’ll be grateful for my heritage.
The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting. The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood. There are ghosts walking.
I am at that age where parents die in clusters. This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy. I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”. I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more. It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.
This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled. Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time. Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent. They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once. And I take those phone calls. I listen. I witness. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’m looking for comfort too. I want to escape in a good book. I want a fire in the fireplace. I want a pot of soup on the stove. For my ancestors those things were just part of the days. Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured. (I didn’t, but I can.) Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones. Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.
Baking is part of that comfort factor as well. A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell. Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.
There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives. We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”. Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time. In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday. How are you going to use it?
I love this time of year. I like the cooler weather. I like wearing sweaters. I like the light and the colors in the leaves. Fall harvest has me making soups and baking.
I struggle at this time of year. I have serious mold and dust allergies that always gets worse until we have a good hard freeze. The temperature swings (I live in Minnesota. It can be 35F one day and 80F the next) are tough to navigate. I cherish the sunshine and dread the days getting noticeably shorter.
There is so much to do at this time of year. I need to bring in the plants and repot. I need to get ready for Halloween (both trick or treat and the Sabbat). I need to swap my closet and bedding over to the winter wear. All I want to do is curl up in a blanket with a good book and a warm beverage, or maybe take an outing to the movies.
There’s also the food issue. My body wants to eat more. I’m not hungry, as the post-bariatric pouch won’t allow that. It’s not even head hungry. It’s more like hunger in the bones. My genetics expect a winter and have kicked into survival mode. I can tell I’m not getting enough protein, even though my diet hasn’t really changed. It’s another push and pull.
This year it seems I’m especially aware of the paradox of the season. As I struggle with balance in my own life I become more alert to the push and pull around me. I recognize that I can allow any of these things to buffet and batter me, throwing me off course. I can also simply acknowledge them and let them wash over me. There is a peace in simply appreciating the variety of moods the season brings.
So I do small things. I get apples and squashes for baking and decorating. I tidy the house. I pick up a few things in the yard as I walk by. I’m playing the grasshopper, not the ant. I’m not ready for winter. I am simply trying to be present in each day.
In Frazer’s The Golden Bough there is some exploration of the notion of the sacred king. There are a number of components to this idea. One is in the Divine right of kings to rule, and subsequently that they are the representatives of the Divine on Earth. Then there is the belief that the kings are connected to the land. As the king succeeds the land thrives, as the king fails or falls ill the land is depleted. In a system that holds these principles to be true, the logical outcome is to demand the sacrifice of the king to relieve a drought or natural disaster. Frazer took that philosophy and connected it to the agricultural cycle of reaping and sowing – death and rebirth.
I came back from spending a long weekend on the land to see my Facebook full of images of our Secretary of the Interior assessing National Parkland for its value to sell to industry for development. Moving from visiting a Prairie reclamation project at the height of success to a clearly out of control consume and profit narrative was disheartening to say the least.
On the way home I noticed the corn was starting to come in from the fields. The corn harvest is the mark for me of the Lammas celebration, John Barley Corn is dead, long live John Barley Corn. This is the representation in Wicca of the sacred king mythology. The grain God is sacrificed to feed the people.
It’s been difficult to sort out the sacred from the political. Police are shooting people, healthcare continues to be threatened in spite of an overwhelming majority who clearly want to have coverage, and our sacred lands are being sold out from under us – again and still.
I see spiritual representatives from around the world being dismissed by Big Oil at Standing Rock. I see a spiritual leader in my hometown, trying to help a neighbor in distress, being shot by police. I see places that I’ve stood in awe of nature being looked upon as a feast for mining, logging and manufacturing industries.
Included in the sacrificial king mythology is the Arthurian story of the Fisher King. This is part of the grail quest. The sacred chalice, that has magical qualities including the ability to heal, is apparently in the possession of the Fisher King. The king has a grievous wound and is failing, as is his land. Somehow he doesn’t have the wisdom, moral integrity, or desire/belief to use the grail. Percival, who was raised by a single mother in the forest away from the society of men, sees the solution but fails (out of politeness?) to ask the question that will heal everything.
We need to ask the questions. We need to keep asking until we get answers that go beyond pats on the head and being told we can’t possibly understand. Why can’t we get along? Why does the notion of “equal rights” always seem to have an “except” clause? When and how much is enough? Who has the vision for our future? Does that vision include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For everyone?
Previous blogs about the holiday season: