Honoring Our Seasons

I spend too much time swirling. To do lists, activities, deadlines – and all this while I try to be judicious in how I allot my time and attention. I suppose this state of affairs is to be expected in some ways – between work, school for both myself and my son, 4H, teaching preserving, and keeping up with family and friends, that’s a fairly full schedule. But I tell myself that this is just a season of my life – I won’t always be both working full time and a full time student. Eventually it will just be the one or the other.

A good chunk of feeling over-scheduled and time poor is in prioritization and mindset. I used to make the excuse that I didn’t have time for yoga and meditation, until I just decided it was about as non-optional a task as brushing my teeth. So now every evening before bed, I do a short five-minute yoga routine – after brushing my teeth. I do it most mornings as well. The ultimate goal is to do an hour per day, but I figured that getting the habit started was more important than anything else. As an admitted perfectionist, I often let lack of mastery or not having huge chunks of time to devote to practice serve as a roadblock to doing anything at all. Ten minutes per day and half a dozen poses play to that perfectionist tendency in a non-destructive way, by allowing me to focus intently on basic mastery in a short period of time. As the weeks go on, I’ll extend my practice five or ten minutes at a time – either by lengthening the time I hold poses or by adding new ones. In six months time I will have my yoga practice where I intend it to be – at an hour per day, split between a limbering and energizing wake up routine, and a calming and meditative evening one. And I’ll be no worse for wear for it; having barely noticed the time I’ve “lost” to other pursuits (which is admittedly too much screen time in one form or another).

And then there’s the weaving. A few summers ago at an outdoor flea market I found a gem – a virtually unused tabletop size four Spears Weaving Loom. It costs me a whopping five bucks, which was a steal considering they go for around $40 in most places online. Admittedly, it is a child’s toy, but back in the day they made these things out of wood and metal, so it’s actually got excellent craftsmanship. It’s a great hobbyist loom, and boasts that a 16 inch wide scarf of “any reasonable length” can be produced in three hours. As a home economist of the new order (although we are now calling ourselves family and consumer scientists), the fiber arts are one of my things. I love sewing, and crocheting and knitting run close seconds. I’m fascinated by pattern and textile designs. I’ve long dreamed of designing the perfect pattern of red, gray and white flannel plaid (I see it quite clearly in my mind) that is unique only to me.

So as I’ve had the loom several years and a single scarf can be made in hours, you must imagine I’m just awash in custom plaid scarves and other handwoven delights. Of course, you’re wrong. It gathers dust beneath the hutch in my dining room, the bottom cabinet of which serves as my haberdashery. It occurred to me the other day, as I contemplated pulling it out, that I never seem to find myself in the season for weaving. And that got me to thinking, as that’s a peculiar sentiment to adhere to. What is the season for weaving, exactly? And why do I so often feel like I’ve missed it? And why does the seasonality of tasks and activities seem both so foreign, and yet so fundamental, to me?

In my mind, the season of weaving, and fiber arts generally, is winter. It’s a hygge activity, of necessity performed indoors, and by default one in which happens in the relief of outdoor pursuits. The days are short and cold. The garden is put to bed. With no livestock to tend and little interest in outdoor winter sport, my winters are largely housebound. Winter is the time of weaving. Winter is also the time of eating from the larder, minimal travel, hibernation, and books. So what is my problem? I’ve had this loom for two winters now, and the spiders under the hutch have undoubtedly spent more time with it than I have.

Part of it is a mental game, of course, like the yoga. I’ve simply spent two winters choosing to do other things. I’m consistently annoyed and increasingly bothered by the hold screens seem to have on my attention, and it’s something I’m trying to be more mindful about. I’ve gotten better about shutting down the laptop by eight o’clock every night on three or fours day each week. I’m working up to having one day of not turning it on at all, though that’s a bit of challenge at the moment since the majority of my school work is currently happening online. But that’s only half of the equation for me. The other half is the speed of modern living and it’s ignorance of seasonality. No one slows down and hibernates in the winter – commerce doesn’t stop, and our modern lives are essentially built around commercial enterprise. Time is money. Most of us have no real connection to the natural world on a daily basis. We move through it on our way to work, or the shops, or where ever we go in our cars. Waking up with the sun is no longer a common practice. “Make hay while the sun shines” is a quaint saying from a bygone era that evokes seasonality – do something while the conditions are right to do it – but people say this now when trying to close business deals, for god’s sake. It’s just not the same thing. We can eat whatever we want when we want it, because it’s been trucked in from somewhere. We can stay up past sunset because we’ve lit up our homes and our towns in ways that were unimaginable as recently as eighty years ago. We cool our homes to winter temperatures in the summer months, and heat them into tropical greenhouses in the winter months. The seasonality of an agrarian life is largely a collective memory at this point, and a thin one at that.

Maybe I idealize the oldways a bit. Of course the alternative viewpoint of the past is an Hobbessian one – nasty, brutish and short. And technology serves us well when it’s an appropriate scale and we’re not slaves to it (though admittedly it’s a hard balance). And I’m by no stretch a Luddite – I do certainly appreciate my screens and the “window to the world” (to borrow our local PBS station’s slogan) that they can function as. And I do find value in central heating in a temperate, cold climate, as well as the electric lights and definitely the indoor plumbing. Advances in food preservation technology, home sanitation and medicine have been literal life savers for humanity. Those are not bad things. But I feel an indescribable longing for seasons, that is not often easy to achieve in the world in which we live.

I’m not sure yet of all of the ways in which I can better honor the seasons of my life, but I’m starting the practice of considering it. I’m slowly changing the seasons of my days, by dimming the lights we use in the evening, and minimizing them after eight PM. A revolutionary change I’ve made with bedroom lighting has been in the use of a sunrise alarm clock/light as my bedside lamp. Instead of waking to a shrill beeping noise, I wake gradually based on light that increases in intensity over a half hour and culminates in a brief note of gentle birdsong. I almost never hit the snooze anymore waking up that way. It also serves as a great bedside lamp in the evening, providing light that is an equivalent hue and intensity to strong candlelight – just enough for reading without eyestrain, but not so much that keeps me wired and fully awake at a time of day I should be winding down. It’s helped me improve my sleep cycle, as someone who’s plagued by insomnia.

As spring approaches, and summer (theoretically at least), I’ll turn my attention to the garden and putting up food, to hikes through the forest and lazy evenings by the fire pit. I will make time for the things I am drawn to, and the things I really enjoy, with people I care for, and try not to get sucked into time wasters (Facebook, I’m looking at you). There is a clear difference in being mindfully idle (down time is something we all do need), and getting sidetracked by junk. And when the weather turns cool again in the fall, I’ll pull out the loom and ensure it has pride of place to enjoy it’s season in my life. I will crochet the potholders I’ve been meaning to, and revive my redwork embroidery on a set of handkerchiefs. I will try to slow my pace where I can, and not use modern society as an excuse for not living a life of intention and season.