Our relationship with nature and the cycle of the seasons has long been celebrated by communities in every corner of the country. Plough Sunday, Michaelmas, Lady Day, Twelfth Night. These were important enough to be fixed in the cultural calendar, expressing a community’s reliance on nature and its need to celebrate. Today, few seasonal celebrations and customs have survived. We are no longer bound by harvest and husbandry to the cycle of the seasons, nor are calendars marked with festivals and celebrations that express this powerful reliance and connection with nature.
Yet, the seasons are still part of all of our lives, our language and our culture. Seasonality is experienced in all places, rural and urban alike, binding us to nature and the passing of time. May Day, Apple Day or Harvest Festivals still provide engaging and enjoyable ways to connect with landscapes and help enhance a distinctive sense of identity within local communities. As a nation we have long been fascinated with measuring, recording and predicting seasonal change – sundials, weather kites, barometers, tide bells, all have been invented to harvest water, light, air pressure and wind to help people navigate daily life and foretell what the skies and tides will bring tomorrow. The seasons are part of us, embedded in the joy we feel when spring comes or the blues we feel in mid-winter. Our culture and language is bristling with music, art, myths, poems, sayings, metaphors, all binding our feelings and thoughts to the weather and the seasons. Red sky at night, clear moon frost soon. We can be ‘mad as a March hare’, feel ‘right as rain’ or have ‘sunny dispositions’.
Days punctuated by night, the waxing and waning of the moon, the rhythm of the seasons and the movement of the sun: these are our building blocks of time, the raw material of almanacs, calendars, our human plans, our celebrations, our hopes and quiet wishes. Before we could read the stars or programme computers, people navigated and predicted the weather by watching clouds, animals, water, or feeling the direction of the wind. The coming seasons were noticed in the first snowdrop, the budding trees, the last swallow, the yellowing leaves, the first ice, reminding us that we are bound to natural events and that we are participating in life, not just standing and watching from the side-lines.
Common Ground are developing various new projects which celebrate the cultural history of the seasons and explore how seasonality can become part of our ever-busying 21st-century lives.
Learning through the seasons