In the spring of 2009 I decide to make a change. My intention was to live more in sync with nature and the cycles of the year. Because I live in the Northeast, the seasons are distinct and offer radically different perspectives - from the stark contrast of bare naked trees against a gray sky to the blaze of autumn foliage reflected in a chilly lake. So I promised myself I'd look out my window more as a means to give insight to what might be going on inside me.
I began by completing a project I had started four years prior - a Wheel of the Year - that had been inspired after reading The Circle Within by Diane Sylvan. In each season of the year, and each month within that season, I made note of particular words or phrases that lived in that space - the elements, the emotions, the activities, the functions, the gifts. I had it framed and hung it it in my office, literally turning it each month to mark the passage of time and plug me into to where I was in it.
Shortly after, I began sending out my monthly Touchstones newsletter, a practice I continue to this day. Each month has a theme and begins with a piece specifically dedicated to honoring the month - its unique purpose, flavor, feeling and perspectives - so that it's not lost in the shuffle of the year. Before rushing headlong into each month, it's my attempt to ask, "what was that all about?" and simply say, "Oh, yeah. Thank you." That specific piece of my Touchstones newsletter has been incredibly well received and each month I receive countless e-mails sharing how well my description and "take" on the month resonates with women. So it seems I'm not alone.
This month, a little over a year after I began writing Touchstones, I found myself describing March as the "birth canal of the year", transporting us from one place (winter and death) to another (spring and life) and it occurred to me that I had travelled a full cycle. I celebrated just how far I've come in my relationship with time. I look out the window so much more than I used to and let nature and the cycles of the year whisper in my ear. I honor each month and am grateful for its role in informing my life.
So, as a tribute to that practice, I offer you the cast of characters for the past "year" of the turning wheel as a way of kissing them all goodnight and thanking them for showing up year after year - as a welcome guest or not. So take a stroll through memory lane...give a nod to all of them or go directly to those months that hold significance for you or that you tend to dread or want to skip over all together. See what clues might be waiting for you. Be my guest.
March 2009: Itchy Skin
This time of year, we come to realize that "March madness" is not just about a basketball tournament. Having endured the lion's share of the winter season, we grow restless and itchy. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and our muscles twitch with anticipation. People roll their eyes with impatience and tempers get short. Clearly, this month of "gray" challenges our "black and white" loving society to live in ambiguity a bit longer than we'd like. Similar to Rumi's sentiment in his "Chickpea to Cook" poem, March essentially acts as a stew pot that calls us chickpeas to boil new life; reminding us that this time is well spent, "giving us flavor so [we] can mix with spices and rice and be the lovely vitality of a human being[s]." So in this season, as the light of the full moon is amplified by the snow and crisp air, I invite you to soak up the last of the season's savory spices; resist the urge to scratch a while longer. Be the chickpea. We'll all be out of the pot soon enough.
April: Tender Greens
April is the month we are welcomed out of the cave. We see the tender shoots of pale greens poking through the soil and feel the same energy of hope and rebirth surge up within ourselves. We begin to feel the light and warmth on our skin and take deep, fresh breaths of cool air. All of the sudden, it seems, we begin to allow for more possibilities. We see things with fresh eyes. We move out of slumber and into "day" dreaming, and with it comes a renewed excitement and investment in life and living. We remember we are on this earth for a reason, and recommit to the quest of bringing whatever "it" is into the world more fully. April is the season of newborns. Babies take center stage on earth in the forms of buds on the trees, swollen bellies of mothers and peeping birds in far up nests. As we stretch our bodies awake from our season of hunkering down, notice what is waiting to be born in you. What are your tender greens? Don't know yet? Step out of the shadows and into the sun and watch them grow. It might be that simple. Like nature intended.
May: First Tastes
May comes to us like a fine piece of chocolate rolling about the tongue - sweet and so welcome and, sometimes, gone too soon -- leaving us hungry for more. This time of year invites us all into the "catch me if you can" spirit, savoring the warmth of the sun and summer-like feel on the good days and patiently waiting out the cold and rain on the other days. Bright beginnings are exploding around us as, overnight it seems, trees and flowers bring color once again to our previously dark and dull world. The days are longer, and yet there is a sense of a chapter closing as the end of school year comes into sight. May invites us to shake off the last vestiges of spring, like an athlete warming up on the starting line before a race. Our blood starts to run a bit quicker in anticipation of all the action and aliveness that summer is sure to bring. We are poised and eager, our pockets full of shiny new commitments, dreams and ideals. As you travel the remaining days of this transitional season, may your chocolate be sweet, satisfying and finger-lickin' good.
June: Full Bloom
June has arrived. The zenith of the year is upon us, and we approach summer solstice holding our breath with the excitement of being alive. Splashes of color extend into bright and expansive sunlight. It's impossible to ignore the lushness of life around us. June is the time when we can see visible signs of our labor - possibilities are coming to fruition and imagination and dreams have taken hold right before our eyes. Just as the atmosphere does, we start to heat up this time of year. The passion and the longing that has been building up within us is becoming impatient and is not easily contained. It wants to see the light of day. There is no stopping June. We tire of the fight with our instincts and urgings, and choose instead to plunge into the flow of our lives with wild abandon and deep faith. We stop thinking so much and start acting more from our hearts. As your life moves into this height of illumination, take stock of what is impossible to ignore. What is calling you to leap?
Mmmmhmm? I'm sorry, did you say something? Sigh. Doobie doobie doo....da, da tah dah da...And so goes July. There is a timelessness about this month that invites us to get lost in our own thoughts, dreams and whims. People daydream. Kites fly high. We sit back in our chairs and kick up our feet, content to watch the day unfold as it sees fit. In July, we ride the wave of our previous efforts, and allow ourselves to wander aimlessly and sometimes get naughty. We play hooky. We stall. We give into the child-like urges to stay up late and bend the rules a bit. We throw down the reins for a spell, knowing there will be time enough for that later. In short, we play. July is heralded in with a sky full of fireworks and winds its way into the heart of the lazy days of summer. As we head into the homestretch of this fat and happy month, take your sweet time...stay for that extra something, finish your thought, follow your whims and roll around in the green grasses a bit longer than you ought. It will wait - whatever "it" is.
August: Fever Pitch
Things heat up for us in August. Our pulse quickens, our eyes and minds and intentions dart from here to there and back again. There is an irony that emerges during August - a sense of the "lazy days of summer" converge with an urgency to hurry and fit it all in before we start the slow descent into dormancy once again. There is a frenetic energy about August that is at once intoxicating and exhausting - like we are all a bunch of mexican jumping beans hopping about a hot plate, having the time of our life in a rather scattered and random fashion. At the heart of August is an invitation to make choices. Faced with all those expectations and intentions we set forth in June, we are asked to reconcile our lists one last time. In this spirit, we breathe in these last days of summer with great reverence and appreciation as we listen to the cicadas build to a climax. Tired from our summer journey and hot from the sun, we are invited to put down our oars and relax into August's strong and capable arms, trusting that we will be safely transported into a new season with everything we need.
September: Sharpened Pencils
September blows in with a bushel full of "firsts" and slowly reveals the blank canvas of our lives. From the back to school busyness to the Jewish New Year celebrations, we can't escape the sense of a fresh start unfolding before us. The air, the spirit and the sights around us feel crisp and ready - like freshly sharpened pencils and the allure of a brand new notebook. We are filled with possibility and childlike awe as the leaves above us blaze their colors seemingly overnight and dance throughout our days. Grieving for the long and lost days of summer, gives way to an excitement and our breath catches as we wait to see what's coming next. Life feels rich and as abundant and colorful as the farmers markets, and yet intuitively we sense this sliver of time is fleeting and special. In this month, we are constantly drawn back to the present moment as all our senses are engaged. The blustering wind invites us to pick up our pencils and put it to paper - to step into something that is uniquely our own and celebrate ourselves in all our glory.
There is no hiding from October. It wants to be seen. It dazzles us with its color and blustery shows as a way to capture our attention and lovingly reveal what is real and true and at the core. As the leaves fall away from the trees, we see once again the structure that has been there all along - the strong and enduring trunk, the branches that have withstood countless storms - and are reminded of our own strength and resilience. October invites us to see what is before us more clearly - to forgo the guess work and to take stock of what is real - good, bad or ugly - so we might have a more accurate sense of where we stand and what is most important. Standing in the bracing winds of the late fall, we are no longer buffered from the elements. And yet we still stand, the ultimate homecoming. There is a pride and a reverence that comes in on October winds, like the surrender that comes with a deep sigh. We begin to lean back into the arms of whatever holds us and learn, once again, to trust in the natural cycle of our lives.
November: Gray Skies
November leaves a lot to our imaginations. The gray skies and low ceilings offer us a blank canvas and invite us to go inward for inspiration. The distractions of the bright fall leaves and final surge of autumnal activity have given way to a more reflective and private world of our own inner thoughts. November brings us back to our own resourcefulness, reminding us that we hold the answers we seek. However we enter the darkness of this time of year - kicking and fighting or eagerly awaiting - we are returned to ourselves; what we want, what is unfinished, what is next. Big questions begin to descend upon us and we eventually find our way back to a way of being that allows us to sit with all that is unknown or waiting to be heard or to be born. Silence and reflection finds us in this month and we know instinctively to welcome it. We make hot cups of tea, pull out our fuzzy socks and begin the process of hunkering down. We build our fires for the long winter and we sit ourselves down - waiting, watching, listening for what it is we are meant to receive.
December: Tying a Bow
December is a mixed bag of confusion and clarity, angst and peace, activity and stillness, social and solitude. As we head toward the end of another year, many of us are at a bit of a loss with what to make of December - it seems to have had a mind of its own in that regard. This month, we are inevitably gifted with a blessed mindset of "doing the best we can" or "making the most with what we've got." In short, December gives us a hall pass to keep our high expectations and best laid plans at bay and invites us to just wrap it up as best we can. Winter solstice smiles upon us with a good-natured nod, reminding us that our time of light and "doing" has reached its final curtain call for the year. With that understanding, we breathe a sigh of relief, dust off our chapped hands, sit back on our haunches to admire our handiwork and chuckle at the oft-lopsided bow we have tied on the package of our year. And as we curl up under the blanket of the year, we dream about beginning anew and all that might be possible as a another light within us is born.
January 2010: Winter Weeding
January is a naked month. Stripped bare and washed white, there is a stark reality about January that invites us all to throw up our hands, keep it real, call it out - with ourselves, our circumstances, or others - and shore it up accordingly. It's the month we tackle what we've been putting off or stepping over, making fresh new commitments and shiny resolutions that have some teeth and pack a punch. We mean business in January. This month we find ourselves "weeding" out all the gunk in our trunks, sorting through the piles, casting off any dead weight, lightening the load and generally making a bigger clearing in which to live our lives. We go into corners with flashlights, clean out under the beds, open neglected and overstuffed closets and bag up loads of unnecessary stuff. Satisfied with our handiwork, we wipe off our dusty brows, sit back with a satisfied smile and take in the space that's now opened up as a result of our weeding. Ah! Much better!
February: Runt of the Litter
As the shortest month, February is the runt of the litter in our year. Like the littlest pig, it's scrappy and resourceful, scrambling around its more robust and appealing siblings, doing what it can to garner some attention and nourishment. There is nothing fancy or flouncy about February. It's actually quite plain and nondescript, often getting lost in the shuffle between the newness of January and the home stretch feeling of March. And yet it is the month of Love. February tests our capacity to love unconditionally. As it desperately jumps up above the heads of its sibling months, yelling "pick me, pick me!", we ultimately recognize the ugly duckling appeal of February and taking it under our wing with a gentle pat of affection. February teaches us to see simple pleasures in the most unlikely places - the blessing of a sunny day, a confused bulb pushing through the ground a bit early, the stark contrast of bright red hearts against a grey sky, even an prophetic groundhog. It doesn't take much to please February and with its passage, we are once again reminded that sometimes the best things can come wrapped in the plainest of paper and smallest of packages.
March: Turkish Twist
Like one of those disorienting and gack-producing rides at amusement parks, March spins us around and around and around, cementing us to its side with centripetal force. We lose the ability to focus or make sense of any one thing, blurring our realities. Every effort at lifting our heads or moving a leg feels like a herculean task, like mountaineers facing the final ascent of Everest without oxygen. Displaying a cruel irony, March has the viscosity of molasses, making “marching” virtually impossible. And just when we abandon our feeble attempts to unstick ourselves from the walls, the bottom drops out and suddenly being attached to the wall of this “ride” becomes an attractive option. Therein lies the gift of March: surrender. It is the birth canal of the year; the one that asks us to be still and patient, promising us that on the other side, beauty and life will once again be born. And so we spin around and around, often closing our eyes in an effort to find our “happy place”, trusting the ride will soon stop and put our feel on solid ground.