Sunday, September 13, 2015

The season of St. Michael - Michaelmas - and what it brings

Children play-acting at Michaelmas
Just read friend Wendy Brown's post - my fellow Virgo, Wendy's birthday is the day after mine...she writes of rhythm and ritual and order, of slowing down and this inspired me to write.  I think of of slowing down like the animals, preparing for hibernating - knowing what is ahead of us - chilly nights, drying leaves, darker days here in the heartland.

Don't get me wrong. I love fall. It is my favorite time of the year. A sweet romantic melancholy fills my heart when I walk through Kenwood, see the drying hydrangeas turning to that golden pink, see the brittle stems of the lavendar, the children running freely in the park now, still in shorts and t-shirts knowing how different that will be in only twelve weeks - more likely bundled in down and mittens and tugging at a sled.

I love the change of it all. When I lived in Charleston in the late '70's for the first time, I recall September coming around and instead of Fall, it is "the Hurricane Season." It is warm and moist and turbulent. And a bit exciting for a newcomer to have to evacuate the island I was living on the first year and head to Columbia, a part of that great snake-like chain of cars winding its westward way along I-26. But I missed the signals to pull out my sweaters and change up my closet, to pack away the thin embroidered cotton Indian shirts and flip-flops and replace them with cashmere and boots.
I did that last week here in Minneapolis and, in doing so, saw the holes in my closet where I needed another pair of jeans and another pair of boots and another skirt. Well, not need. Wanted....let's be accurate.

But this change is more than seasonal, more than about changing out wardrobes and storing up wood for the fire. In 1992, as a new parent at the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, I attended my first Michaelmas Celebration at the end of September. Celebrated since the Middle Ages in Europe, it honors St. Michael, the highest of the archangels. Michael is known for his courage in fighting Lucifer, the protector through the darkest days and the administrator of cosmic intelligence. Waldorf schools, founded in Europe in 1919, all celebrate Michaelmas as a festival on or around Sept 29, taking note that we are coming into the darkest days, of the gratitude for the bountiful harvest, and of change that is sure to come.

Lee tells the story this way: as Michael battles with the dragon (he is most often depicted having slain a dragon) we see signs of it in the leaves, the fire-y breath of the dragon burns them and turns them to golden and red all around us. We can then be sure that the battles are raging in the heavens. This is the story for the children. But for us, as adults, the battles rage within at this time of year. The bittersweet melancholy is so often more than just about the change of seasons. It is change in us. We are aging, we are needing to grow, to continue to grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, socially and this also means loss. Saying good bye to something that no longer serves us.

I find myself a little less patient, dogged with what is ahead of me, what it is I need .... if I am lucky enough to know what that is. I think it is also a time of confusion, of not knowing what is next. Of uncertainty while still knowing that "change is gonna' come."

May your Season of St. Micheal be a meaningful one.

This St. Michael watches over us in our Library.

A drawing from A Waldorf Main Lesson Book of St. Michael slaying the Dragon

Micheal slaying Lucifer

The classic St. Michael image:  slaying the dragon

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