Aligning our lives with the seasons can open up a new landscape of resistance, resilience and reconnection.
It changes what you eat, how you move through the world, they way you perceive your emotions, tend to your body and honour your needs. And I think it could help us find our way back to a kinder, saner, stronger way of being. The kind we’re going to need more and more of, in the years to come.
Letters from the Land are intimate reflections sent direct to your inbox, every full and new moon, so you can slow down and fill up with the energy of each season.
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I’ll write to you on the full and new moons with words and images from these hills, helping you tap into that spaciousness and freedom that’s always here; rooting you in the ever-changing, ever-unfolding constant of the changing year.
Why seasonal living?
The systems which sustain us are cracking and straining. We’re sick, stressed and mired in a crisis largely of our own making.
It’s time to slow down. Look around. And to ask what the earth has to teach us about change, and letting go, and creating new life even from the darkness of the void.
Maybe living “seasonally” sounds like a buzzword, something you’d see on a restaurant menu. Or it’s something you imagine yourself doing one day. When life’s less busy. When the kids/work/business/family stuff isn’t in the way.
But the hard truth is, you only have a certain number of seasons in your lifetime. That number is not as big as it can seem when we’re caught up in the minutiae of to-do lists and deadlines and the thick muddy stuff of life. And the way the world is changing, we don’t have the luxury of thinking it’s “business as usual”. Faster than we think, things could change.
(It also happens to be the best way I’ve found to create a fuller, richer, more wholehearted life.)
I don’t think paying attention to the natural world should be the preserve of environmentalists or scientists or activists. I think it’s time we all started to hear what the earth is telling us, in a far more radical way than we’ve allowed ourselves to in the past. My connection with nature deepened when I stopped seeing it as a pageant laid on for me to take notes, and started experiencing myself as a part of it.
I grew up in London, seeking the untamed edges of the city wherever I could and one day, the call to something wilder wouldn’t go away. In 2014 we upped sticks to a tiny off-grid smallholding in Central Portugal, where we grow vegetables, make music (him) and write and write and write (me). Chickens, woodstove, compost toilet, solar-powered electricity… We’re about as far from the neon and pavements as we can get.
Turning my life upside down and taking that leap into the wild unknown is one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done.
From the very start of the baking hot summer we arrived, I found myself suddenly and viscerally connected to the seasons. A year after moving here I began to write monthly letters from the land to a small group of friends and family, as a way to observe and share more closely the shifts I saw around and within me.
I wrote about the tall trees toppled in autumn, the storms and the heatwaves, and the tiny shoots bursting through in spring.
Six months later I started seeing an acupuncturist and learned about the 5 elements theory connecting our bodies, minds, and emotions to characteristics of each season.
I compared the Chinese understanding of the seasons to the Celtic calendar and started to think about the seasons as represented in astrology, literature, art. Gradually I grew to see more clearly the toll our 365/24-7 digital lives take on us.
A host of seemingly disconnected challenges fell into place. My love for seasonal eating; the ebb and flow of my emotions and moods. How I managed my business, my creativity and my health.
The anxiety I’d experienced for years in the city lessened. I noticed my energy ebb in winter with compassion, instead of concern.
I began to see that there was a place for every mode of being in the cycle of the year, and that I could sink into one state trusting that it would pass when the next one was ready.
I learned to rest, and work, to create and let go.
Because outside my window, the trees and the birds, the sky and the river, were doing the same things.
I watched, and wrote, and read, and the idea took hold of turning this into something to share with other people. And so, the seed that became The Seasoned Year was planted, and began to thrive.
Three years after our journey back to the land, in 2017, the house we’d been living in burned to the ground in the worst wildfires this region had seen in living memory. We were in the UK at the time, visiting family, and we returned to charred, blackened ground where forests had once stood.
That year had seen an eight-month drought, and the hurricane winds we’d hoped would bring rain instead fuelled uncontrolled wildfires across Portugal and Spain. On the other side of the world, in California and Australia, and even in the Arctic Circle, fires like ours raged too. I found myself reflecting on our changing world with new eyes. No longer were rising temperatures and skewed airstreams something to wonder about in an abstract way. That fire marked a threshold in my awareness of the predicament we were in.
We were lucky. All we lost were possessions. But as we began to heal collectively, and to reflect on the gifts the fire had brought, I realized that the lessons I’d been learning and sharing from the land were the very threads which gave me space to process what had happened, and to recover, slowly, with the hills.
To find a way forward, and hope, after losing it all.