All summer I freeze under the icy blast of air conditioning, while I roast all winter in our overheated little apartment. I don't have a herd to bring out to pasture in the spring; I don't have a harvest to stockpile in the fall; I don't have baby ducklings to hatch or grapes to squish between my toes. Is it just me, or are we all a little bit seasonally challenged?
The only vestiges left of seasons to the average American—one who buys fresh, global produce year-round at the grocery store, who lives in a climate-controlled world where one rushes in and out of doors to avoid nature's harsher temperatures—are commercial seasons. You've seen them at the grocery store, the mall, and even on your kids' school calendars. As soon as the flurry of Halloween costumes and knickknacks have been removed, it's time for Thanksgiving kitsch and clip art to go up. As soon as you're sick of the brown turkey decorations it's time for the reds and greens, frost and boughs of Christmas (even if you live in a place with no snow or frost to speak of). A week later it's New Year's—champagne, party hats, and horns. Next come the pinks and reds, candy hearts, and feathery lingerie of Valentines Day. (Then follows President's Day, which doesn't involve a huge assault on the senses, except maybe a lot of red, white and blue mattress sales.) Then everything is dressed in green, with corny images of leprechauns and pots o' gold. These visual cues and color combinations are supposed to tune us in to our modern secular-commercial calendar, rather than looking for signs in nature signaling the turning of the seasons.
Four Seasons of Mojo is definitely a book to get you back in tune with the "real" seasons. As Stephanie Rose Bird writes, "In the States, weather is a "condition" to be treated almost like a medical illness, with a variety of electronics or protective gadgets. Whereas the wet season in Africa and many other locales is a time for celebration, here rain is something that threatens our outdoor events, or more trivial still, causes frizzy hair. […]On the other side of the coin are people intensely interested in the seasons and their relationship to the bottom line. It is a sad reality that most of the agrarian celebrations that have survived to the present day have only been kept alive because they afford an opportunity to make money from the mass marketing of food, gifts, and costly indulgence." Her book is a great way to start reclaiming your connection to the flow of the seasons in an all-natural, do-it-yourself way.
One of the great boons of being a witch is really getting to know the cycles of the earth, the interplay between light and dark; recognizing the season for rapid, breathless growth, and the season for reflecting in the depths of your thoughts. As Dianne Sylvan writes in The Circle Within, "It doesn't matter how many Circles you've cast or how many invocations you have memorized, if you can't remember the last time you touched the bark of a tree, felt grass through your fingers, or sang to the moon, you're missing the entire point of Wicca." It's a path that places a huge emphasis on getting out there and reconnecting with nature. She says "Even if all you can manage is once a week for an hour, seek out the trees and rocks and water that live on this planet with you. They have more to say than any human ever has." Here is her advice for replacing the commercialization of the seasons with personalization:
"I suggest you find a place out in nature—a spot you can return to frequently—and follow it for a year. Go there periodically—not just on the Sabbats, but in between—and observe how the seasons have altered it. Start where you are in the cycle. Write down or sketch what you see and how it changes, and also what changes have occurred in yourself. Notice how the two intersect. Western civilization has sundered itself from the seasons; we live in artificial environments that upset the natural rhythm of our bodies. Once you begin to realign your heart with the outside world, you will notice that the year's waxing and waning has a gentle but definite effect on you as well.
"Beyond any myths, beyond the human-imposed structure of holidays and festivals, lies the true Wheel of the Year. Forget every book you've read, everything you've been told. Forget what our supposedly Pagan ancestors did on each holiday, what the days meant to them. Forget everything you know about the Wheel, and go out and learn the seasons from the seasons themselves."