Seasons of a Magical Life speaks to me in a deeply personal way. My own family lived close to the land. My childhood was filled with helping plant and harvest crops on our one hundred acre farm, canning and preserving, spending a warm afternoons riding in the backwoods with my painted pony. Even when my family moved into town, we still kept a garden and we foraged for blackberries and elderberries that grew profusely in our area. And my step mom made the best jams and jellies. Ballard brings all of those wonderful memories back to me, but more importantly, she reminds me of something I had forgotten while living in a high rise in San Antonio. How to live close to the land, even when you are four stories in the air.
The book is divided into three parts. Part one is a series of essays that discusses animism, time, permaculture, magic and land spirits. I was especially impressed with the author's use of time and how she merges the Christian aspects of Embertide Days and Rogation Days with the Pagan Wheel of the Year.
Part Two addresses the Wheel of the Year, starting with Samhain and ends with Mabon. Each essay guides the reader through chores, such as tidying up altars and work spaces, tending gardens and livestock. Skills include interesting things like wine making and and dancing. Crafts, like knitting and crochet, are mentioned; which are two of my personal hobbies. There are also activities for children and suggestions for ceremonies and rituals.
Part Three takes us to the Hearth, where everything previously discussed in the first two sections is brought together to create a warm and comforting lifestyle that the seeker can call their own. The author instructs the seeker in how to create a wonderful homey kitchen, creating sacred spaces inside the home and outside, and how to do chores such as dishes and cooking manually. There is also a meditation for hanging laundry out to dry, a chore as a child that I loathed, but the reader's mileage may vary. But my favorite was the creation of the outdoor kitchen, something my homesteading friends created years ago. My best friend is Italian and we had the best time cooking outside for all of our friends.
I really loved this book. It took me back to my childhood and teenage years, and I'm not ashamed to say that it also made me a little homesick for the forests and bayous of my old home. It reminded me of a simpler time when I sat on the porch with my grandma shelling peas while my brother's old hunting dog snoozed at my feet. And at night, I could see the stars.
~review by Patricia Snodgrass
Author: H. Byron Ballard
Red Wheel/Weiser, 2021
p. $18.95, pp. 197