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Sunday night always seems to find me writing something inspired by my Spiritual Nomads course. This week's assignment had us looking at the Wheel of the Year and determining what we really celebrate.

Now, I celebrate the eight traditional holidays...out of tradition. I have wonderful memories of turning the wheel with my mother. In the years before I was out of the broom closet, I used to tell people that I celebrate the seasons, so I have been publicly celebrating the solstices and equinoxes for a long time.

You've heard me say that the cross-quarter days are markers for the passage of time, and that they represent the fullness of the seasons and the point where you turn your focus from solstice to equinox or equinox to solstice. Is that all these days are to me? Possibly...possibly. I've tried on the various yearly stories of the goddess, but I seem to see the year in terms of the Earth as Goddess rather than in one of her human-like manifestations.

What if I were to start over, and map out the year as I really know it, finding the holidays that are spontaneous and heart-felt? 

It might look something like this...

I seem to have chosen four distinct types of holidays.

First, there are the solstices and equinoxes, marking the boundaries of the active and passive seasons, which alternate.  The solstices begin the passive seasons, and the equinoxes start the active ones.  I feel more like doing things in spring and fall; less so in summer and winter, so that's how I divide the year.

Next, in black, there are the holidays that have fixed dates each year.

Earth Day (April 22) - Each Earth day, I celebrate our natural resources and pledge to live gently on the Earth. Each year, my promise to the Earth includes some changes to the way I live that will bring me closer to my ideal. One year found me switching the power supplier for the Aerie to wind and water.  Some year, when I move home to my woods, I will put up a clothes line.

Birthday (September 8) - This is usually spent atop Mt. Greylock, and it's a day that is part celebration and part contemplation.  For the past thirty years or so, I've been taking time on my birthday to review the year just past and note my accomplishments as well was missed opportunities. It's a day to celebrate myself, 'warts and all.'

Ancestors's Day (October 31) - Samhain by any other name is just as good, and a whole lot easier to spell.  I have added a focus on ancestors that I only know through genealogical research.  I read out the names of ancestors whom I discovered in the past year and welcome them. Last year, I had a long list of ancestors from Canada and France to welcome, so the ritual was spoken entirely in French for their benefit.

Swami Kripalu's Birthday (January 13) - This is a new holiday that I will celebrate next January.  It came out of the work on my guru board. I can visualize celebrating his day by practicing yoga, on and off the mat. This would be a day of service and giving, a day of meditation and yoga, perhaps culminating in kirtan, chanting the sacred names. Let's not forget eating healthy, delish Indian food.

Kuan Yin's Birthday (March 19) - Just this year, I awoke to the desire of dedicating myself to Kuan Yin. I am working on a ritual that will honor Her and will offer my dedication. Namo Kuan Shi Yin Pusa is her mantra, a beautiful combination of Sanskrit and Chinese words that loosely translates to "I honor (Or I take refuge in) the enlightened One who hears the cries of the World. 

Next, in red, are holidays that don't have a fixed day. They  belong to their season and take place when the moment is ripe. In some ways, these days replace the traditional cross-quarter days.

Sakura Matsuri (Spring) - this is the Cherry Blossom festival, held when the cherry trees are ripe with bloom. Some years, it is picnic under the allee of trees at the harbor.  Barefoot dancing with petals in my hair is a given. Sometimes a bit of Beltane joins in this holiday, because I look damn sexy with petals in my hair...just sayin'...

Honor the Farms (Summer) - when the farmers' market is overflowing with the ripest and best produce, I plan an impromptu ritual meal that gives thanks the Goddess for her bounty and gives thanks the farmers who make it happen. This is the celebration of the first harvest.

Water Ritual (Summer) - the Sound is just down the road a few miles, so I get up very early on a hot August day and beachcomb for my altar, which I build on the sand. I ritually bathe in the water, releasing all my suffering and sorrows.

Mountain Day (Autumn) - I didn't invent this holiday, but I have been celebrating it since I was a student at Smith College.  The first Mountain Day was celebrated in 1877, when the president of the college declared a surprise holiday on a beautiful October day and sent all the students out to celebrate the beauty of autumn. It's still a surprise holiday at Smith.  My version is an impromptu vacation day where I pack a lunch and head for the woods to enjoy a day away from the urban workday world that I dislike so much.

Spiraling the Heart...and unfolding (Autumn/Winter) - This is a three-month holiday, where I slowly withdraw from outwardly focused thoughts and actions until I reach the center of the spiral in the Heart. I rest here in meditation when the rest of the world is going crazy with Christmas shopping and other frenzies. Then, I slowly return outward until ready to emerge in bloom, much like a tulip. Of course, I can't withdraw completely from the world because I still have to go to my office, but I do manage to avoid all the hoopla of everyone else's season. In the stillness of the season, I find that the words of the Goddess can be heard and I set my intentions for the coming spring and the rest of the year.

Next, in blue, are the retreat periods that I set throught the year. Retreat often means time spent in silence as well as time spent away from everyday life.  

March retreat is often spent at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. It's my time for rest and renewal, time for this tired little tulip to acknowledge that the dark days of winter have drained away my energy.  Healthy food, mindfulness practice, yoga, kirtan, and a massive hot tub all help to restore me.

May retreat is often spent in my own studio at the Aerie, painting, weaving and generally taking quiet care of my muse.

Woodland retreat typically coincides with my birthday and is spent in an idyllic cottage in the mountains. Lots of hiking and meditation on this retreat.

October retreat is spent in celebration of sheep and wool. This retreat is always spent in my own studio, spinning, weaving , meditating, and of course celebrating the late harvest.

Winter study is a retreat within the retreat. During the time spent in the Heart of the Spiral, I try to read inspiring books or take course, and incorporate their wisdom into my life. This Spiritual Nomads course is this year's winter study.

And that's my year. I have a tendency toward solitary practice, but this year I may spend time at other retreat centers, like Omega Institute and a Buddhist monastery.  It all depends on how willing Indigo kitten is to spend a few days boarding at the vet.
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