A couple of weeks ago I asked my Southern Hemisphere friends what symbols and rhythms gave meaning to the seasons of the liturgical year for them. I thoroughly enjoyed their responses which helped me reimagine the symbols and celebrations I find most meaningful as the world turns and the seasons change.
Evidently when Europeans moved to the Southern Hemisphere they took the symbols and celebrations they were familiar with along because these gave them security and connection. Winter symbols and rituals for Christmas made them feel at home when they celebrated Christmas in the middle of summer. Yet these symbols and the rituals they were encouraged to use didn’t help them connect to their new earthly home and its seasons. This disconnect meant that their faith became more and more disconnected from the world in which they lived.
I may not live in the Southern Hemisphere now but I wonder if we suffer from the same disconnect wherever we live. It’s probable that Advent wreaths originate from the custom of removing wagon wheels over the winter – hanging them on the walls and then decorating them with greenery and candles. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t remove my car wheels over the winter and much as I love poinsettias at Christmas and have no desire to let go of them, I know they don’t help me connect to the beautiful Pacific NW where I live. I must confess, as I share in my recent book Digging Deeper, I soon became bored with Advent wreaths too, and went looking for other symbols and practices to help connect me to where I live. I have done the same for Easter, and for other celebrations that are important to me.
This journey started with replacing Advent wreaths with contemplative gardens. These gardens first held succulents, but increasing contain local plants and involve seasonal activities, like sprinkling seeds on the soil and watching it germinate and grow at Easter. They also often connect to world events like the bushfires in Australia or the war in Ukraine as well as to seasonal activities like beachcombing in summer.
Now I am wondering how I can make more of my seasonal celebrations link me to the world in which I live. One of the privileges of living in the Pacific NW is that so much of our Christmas greenery is locally grown. I love walking through a Christmas tree lot at the beginning of the season inhaling the wonderful fragrance of pine leaves One year I even got to go out to a Christmas tree farm and help cut down our own tree – a wonderful way to connect to this part of God’s good earth in which I live.
However I don’t want Christmas and Easter to be my only meaningful celebrations. My awe and wonder walks definitely help me with connecting my seasonal rituals to the land too. I love to wander our neighbourhood drinking in the beauty of the gardens around me. Unfortunately, most of them contain little local flora apart from pine trees, so I need the occasional good walk in one of our local forests to really appreciate the beauty of this part of the world.
Looking for sights and sounds and objects that connect me to the four seasons of the year is now one of my favourite pastimes and my list of possible ways to link my spiritual practices more firmly to God’s good earth grows all the time. Welcoming the day with a short prayer at sunrise and saying goodnight with another as I go to bed is one way. Collecting pine cones and leaves that fall from the deciduous trees and then decorating them to place around the house in the autumn is another . Some of my friends are foragers – searching for mushrooms or picking local fruit like huckleberries provide wonderful seasonal forays into the natural landscape that help to make us feel at home in the land in which we live. Or like me you might enjoy beach combing in the summer. Listening to the waves and enjoying an oceanside stroll is a wonderful summer ritual. I am also currently investigating how I can introduce more local plants into my own garden as I think this is an important way to anchor ourselves in the place in which we live and its seasonal changes.
We are designed to be linked with the earth, to nurture and steward it and there is no better way to do that than by connecting our celebrations to rituals and rhythms in our natural neighbourhood. This doesn’t mean that we throw out all our established seasonal traditions, but it does mean we should intentionally think about other symbols and rhythms that could connect us to God’s good earth and the seasonal changes in the place where we live.
It is an exciting journey of discovery and I hope you will join me on it.
What are habits and rhythms that help you connect your faith to the place in which you live and to the seasons in which you find yourself?
What could you do to strengthen these habits or create new ones?
Who could help you on your journey?
With our latest Facebook live session and spend some time considering your own rhythms and rituals.
Available as an online course, sign up here to gain 180 days of access while you work through this retreat at your own pace. Join Lilly Lewin and Christine Sine in the awe of the broad array of summer symbols that can gain spiritual significance for us when we stop and think about them. Everything from beachcombing to putting on suntan lotion can be the inspiration for practices that draw us closer to God.
Ground yourself in the earth and its summer season where you live and find the ways that God is speaking through it – all the details can be found here!