Author Archives: John Cutrone

A Woodland Stroll, or Your July Book of Days

Welcome to July. Here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for July. It is, as usual, a printable PDF and a fine companion to this blog. Cover star this month: a mid- to late-19th century oil painting called “Summer Day in Sæby Skov with Three Young Ladies Strolling.” It’s a lovely painting with a long title by Danish artist Carl Frederik Aagaard. The trees remind me of woodland strolls in North Carolina and Maine, where the trees are so much different than they are here in Florida.

It is the month of national holidays in Canada and France and here in the US, and of many saints’ days –– Swithin, James, Ann, and Martha, to name a few –– and of the Japanese star festival known as Tanabata. In two days’ time, the Dog Days of Summer will begin, as Sirius begins rising with the sun… and there they will remain with us through the 11th of August. And even in the midst of those often hottest days of summer, the last night of July will bring the Eve of Lammas, the old but little known cross quarter day that reminds us of summer’s fleeting nature, for nothing ever stays the same in the constantly shifting wheel of the year. I’ll visit you as often as I can through this coming month, sharing stories for these days.

SUMMER HIGH FIVE SALE
At the online shop, you’ll find my mom Millie as the cover star for the current HIGH FIVE SALE: Use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 or more. That’s on everything in the shop: our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, genuine Shaker herbs and teas, all of our handmade artisan goods for all the seasons. Plus free domestic shipping when you reach $60. CLICK HERE to shop, and thank you for your support!

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
It’s not too late to enjoy Shakespeare’s midsummer play (Seth and I are going to sit down and watch the 1999 film version tonight). A week ago, for Midsummer Night, I read an adaptation of  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a new video series from the Jaffe Center for Book Arts called Stay Awake Bedtime Stories. I had fun reading the story and you may find it fun to watch. I think it’s about 20 minutes long. Please enjoy it by clicking here.

 

Image: “Summer Day in Sæby Skov with Three Young Ladies Strolling” by Carl Frederik Aagaard. Oil on canvas, circa mid- to late-1800s [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].

Think But This and All is Mended

A midsummer gift for you, and an invitation to join us on Saturday at Lake Worth’s Island Fest.

And so the wheel of the year moves forward one more notch: 5:13 AM Eastern on the 21st of June brings the Summer Solstice to the Northern Hemisphere. It is the astronomical start of summer, and, by traditional reckoning of time, midsummer, for now, after six months of increasing daylight and of the sun climbing higher and higher in the northern sky, things will seem to stand still for a day or two (this is the origin of the word solstice) and then, practically imperceptibly at first, things will shift the other way, and daylight will begin to diminish. This is the constant back and forth, the constant give and take, the constant rearrange that is the result of our planet on its tilted axis orbiting the sun: the tilt gives us our seasons, and the rhythm of our lives in tune with the natural world.

To the solstices the Church assigned great entrances into the world: To the solstice of midwinter it assigned the birth of Christ, and to the solstice of midsummer, the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist. Hence, Christmas falls just after the December solstice, and on this side of the wheel of the year, St. John’s Day falls just after the June solstice, on the 24th. And just as Christmas Eve is considered a magical time (animals speaking at midnight, animals kneeling to pray, wells running with wine), so is St. John’s Eve considered a magical time, as well. And while some people will insist that William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is set on May Eve (April 30, Walpurgis Night), I don’t think that’s quite right. I subscribe to the camp that believes the play is set on St. John’s Eve, the 23rd of June.

This is precisely why I read an adaptation of  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a new video series from the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. It’s called Stay Awake Bedtime Stories. The episode was just released, in time for St. John’s Eve this Thursday night and St. John’s Day on Friday, but also in time for the solstice. Seth made the floral crown for me, and Haden the Convivio Shopcat is there at the start of the video (though she soon stretched and ventured off in search of a meal). The reading is my gift to you at this magical time of year. Please enjoy it by clicking here.

This is the second story I’ve read for the series, but I began Stay Awake with the idea of enlisting storytelling help from friends of mine around the globe. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is only Episode No. 4. Aside from me reading that, you can Stay Awake with me as I read “Pierre” by Maurice Sendak. But also Stay Awake with British artist Davy McGuire as he reads “That Pesky Rat” by Lauren Child, and Stay Awake with master storyteller Jonathan Kruk as he performs “The Misadventures of Ichabod Crane.” Find all four episodes here at the Stay Awake tab at jaffecollection.org. And if you follow the project on Instagram (@stayawakebedtimestories), you’ll be amongst the very first to know about new episodes, for our followers there typically learn about new broadcasts days before anyone else. (You’ll find Convivio Bookworks there, too: @conviviobookworks.)

COME SEE US!
We’ll be at Lake Worth’s inaugural Island Festival this Saturday from 3 to 9.

It’s our first pop-up market since Eastertime and I’m really excited for the stilt walkers and the Junkanoo band and the Polynesian fire dancers. Island Fest is a free event for the whole family and it’s at Hatch 1121, just west of City Hall at 1121 Lucerne Avenue here in Lake Worth (the same place where we gather each year for our local Dia de Los Muertos celebration). Hopefully the weather stays dry! We’ll be there with all our textiles (including Millie’s Tea Towels) and some of our traditional artisan goods from Mexico, some things for Midsummer from Germany and Sweden, and our Shaker herbs and teas and soaps. Click here for full details and if you come by, please say hello!

Finally, I apologize for not writing more. Things have been way too busy at work. You know I would have written if I could have for all the celebrations I’ve missed: Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Bloomsday, Pentecost… but I’ll do my best to be with you for the celebrations to come. In the meantime: Give me your hands if we be friends. Happy Midsummer to you.

 

Oberon & Titania, or Your June Book of Days

June already! It is the month of the summer solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere: Our longest days and shortest nights, the start of summer by the almanac but by traditional reckoning of time it is the month of Old Midsummer, as our days increase in length up until the solstice and then already begin their descent down again once we pass that moment. It is a magical and mystical time, if the stories are true and the poets are right. And why wouldn’t they be? We are at the polar opposite side of the year from Midwinter and its particular potent magic. Our ancestors understood this, and so did the early Church: to Midwinter they assigned the birth of Christ, and to Midsummer, the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way. And so we have Christmas in the bleak midwinter, and this month, at the height of summer, comes St. John’s Day. And just as we have charged Christmas Eve with magic, so have we charged St. John’s Eve. It just doesn’t get as much publicity. But Shakespeare knew of this magic; hence his Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Our cover stars for your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for June are Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, in a painting by John Anster Fitzgerald. The calendar, as usual, is a printable PDF, and a fine companion to the blog (especially when I don’t have time to write to you). Click here for your June Book of Days.

A note, too, about last month’s calendar: I inadvertently listed Pentecost as happening on May 23. That was not at all true. In fact, Pentecost is just coming up in the coming days, on the Fifth of June. It’s a moveable holiday, and I completely messed it up this year. I promise to be more diligent in the future, and I am almost certain that every holiday listed on the June Book of Days is absolutely right. I do the best I can. Click here for a corrected version of the Convivio Book of Days Calendar for May.

Have a wonderful June. May some tangible aspect of Midsummer magic be yours.