And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun
–from “Time” by Pink Floyd
As winter gets closer, my thoughts turn more to cycles, seasons, and my relationship with time. The colder days invite rest, repose, study, less busy-ness, and more reflection on where I’ve been and where I might be headed as the wheel turns again.
We’re first introduced to “time” as something that can be measured in hours, minutes, and seconds. We learn the days of the week and months of the year on the Gregorian calendar. We are given the exception of Leap Year. We mark down birthdays, holidays, and all those milestones we pass by, like graduations, weddings, and retirements. From the moment we draw breath, it is a countdown until we take our last…and in the space between, there is this nebulous, slippery thing called time.
Modern pagans tend to view time as cyclical, as did our pre-Christian ancestors. Rather than a straight line from Point A to Point B, time behaves more like a sphere that bends around and meets itself again. We see it as the Ouroboros, the alchemical symbol of the serpent eating its own tail. It reminds us that an end is a beginning, and of course, a beginning is an end. So time is not an absolute. (If you still think so, then try digging into Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity. They totally squash the idea that time is a universal constant). The truth is that scientists can’t say with certainty that time even exists at all. At best, it’s just a construct or a system that we use to organize our day, but on a cosmic level, our clocks and calendars have no meaning whatsoever.
Still, if we’re walking around in physical form with an ambiguous expiration date in a world where time isn’t real, then what gives substance to our days? I suppose everyone has a different answer to that question. For me, it is the connection I feel to the Gaia herself, the solstices, the equinoxes, the cross-quarter festivals, the moon cycles, the changing tides, and lately it has also been the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. These are the true constants in my life, regardless of what else is going on around me or inside of me.
As I will soon have several months on my own, I want to go even deeper into the idea of circular time. I thought I would start by keeping a journal—really more of an art project—that begins with drawing a big circle on poster board to represent an entire year. I’ll divide it into quarters for the four seasons, and within those quadrants, I will note any significant events, anything new I’ve learned, and I’ll include artwork that represents how I was feeling or where my focus was for that period. This idea came from Waverly Fitzgerald, a teacher and writer who developed a correspondence course called School of the Seasons.
She also recommends designing a seasonal curriculum for yourself that includes specific things you want to learn, whether they are practical or magical. I recently had my sewing machine repaired, so I’m determined to become a better seamstress this winter. I’ll probably tackle more complex crochet patterns as well. I also plan to participate in a sweat lodge and walk a labyrinth at a local hostel that teaches sustainable, eco-friendly ways of living. Strength training and yoga are also on the list, and I want to develop a more consistent meditation practice. Writing will continue to be part of my daily practice, and my studies will center on the Medicine Wheel, at least through the winter months.
I hope to be able to look back and see more meaning in my days, more growth, more reasons to cherish what is here and now, and a more personal connection to the spiral dance of life.