Thursday, January 4, 2018

Coloring in 2018

I had some time to play with chalk pastels this morning, and really liked the soft and blended colors. I have some more examples of colored in liturgical calendars on my instagram @la_balbirona with colored pencil, pantone markers and watercolor. You'll notice that all of them use pretty much all the colors of the rainbow, I just can't help it. I have to use them all. I admire a lot of artwork that is very subtle and tone on tone, using just one color in varying gradations to create a very pleasing and harmonious image, but that subtle and self-restrained ability just isn't within me. I think of my work as medieval-inspired, somewhere between stained glass, illuminated manuscripts and a painted gypsy wagon.
Happy coloring, whatever your style!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

January 2018 Calendar Sketch

My notes on the month ahead.

January 2018 Sketch click here to download the PDF

Left in black and white for you to color.

There are more Epiphany customs than I could fit, including of course the one best known to Americans, the King Cake. This pastry ring is often filled with nuts and cinnamon sugar, covered with icing and colored sprinkles in purple, green, and yellow. A plastic baby Jesus figure (or similar token) is hidden inside, and the lucky person who discovers it in their slice of cake is the "king" for the year, or has to host the party next year, customs vary. This same cake is sold throughout the Epiphany to Mardi Gras season. However, this pastry always looks unappetizing to me, after all the sweets we've already had at Christmas--and store-bought versions are always off limits since I am a celiac--so I prefer to emphasize other Epiphany customs.

In my house, I am methodically putting Christmas decorations away. First the stockings, then the tree (it was dried out and making me nervous), next the nutcrackers, outdoor lights, and assorted seasonal knicknacks, and eventually, at Epiphany or Candlemas, the nativity scenes. My favorite this year is a blue and white china nativity set that I have sitting in the window with white tulips. My traditional nativity set is sitting in the kitchen window, where we can see it all day long as we wash dishes and prepare meals. The advent wreath with Christ candle will sit on the dining table to be lit daily until Epiphany (if the candles hold out) and then it will be recycled, as it's made from a tree round and cedar greens.

Lighting candles daily is important to me in these gray, dark, cold and wet days. Where I live the sun is now rising about 8:00 am and sets by 4:30 pm, and most days are cloudy, chilly and wet all the way through til after Easter. If the Narnia had had the weather of the Pacific Northwest, the phrase would have been "always November and never Winter (let alone Christmas)!" 

Have a blessed month of January!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2018 Quarter Days Calendar

And on the sixth day of Christmas...

Ta da!
It's here. The 2018 Quarter Days Calendar.
Now in black & white so you can color it in yourself.
The full year, all four quarters on one poster, beginning with January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018.
All mistakes are my own. :)
Free for your personal use. Please do not sell or modify my work.

2018 Quarter Year Calendar click here to download the PDF.

What are the Quarter Days?
In the English agricultural/academic/economic calendar, the year was marked by four holidays, roughly all falling on the 25th of the month: Annunciation 3/25, St. John the Baptist Day 6/24, Michaelmas (St. Michael's Day) 9/29, and Christmas 12/25.

In the Scottish/Celtic calendar, the custom was to follow the "cross-quarter days" that fell somewhat equally between the quarter days, usually on the 1st of the month: St. Brigid's Day 2/1 or Candlemas 2/2, May Day 5/1, Lammas (a harvest thanksgiving feast, lammas is a contraction of "loaf mass") 8/1, All Saints' Day 11/1.

These Church holy days had been built on the best parts of what existed naturally in these cultures, the various pagan holidays that marked the natural seasons, solstices, and equinoxes of the year. When placed together on the circle of the liturgical calendar, insight into the nature of these holy days can be had,  such as the celebrations of the births of St. John the Baptist and Jesus being opposite from each other in the year. "He must increase, I must decrease," fits nicely with the natural year as well, as daylight increases (in the northern hemisphere) with Christ's birth following winter solstice and decreases after John's following the summer solstice. There are many such natural and spiritual connections, which help explain many of the regional customs to celebrate the holy days that sprang up over the centuries.

What does this Calendar include?

  • At the center is Christ in the Eucharist, the small white circle at the enter of our Sacramental lives. On it is written the year 2018.
  • This is divided into four quarters, the natural seasons of winter, spring, summer and winter.
  • Next, the months of the year.
  • The Sundays of the year are the next circle, these can be colored in the colors proper to each Sunday.
  • Outside that are the moveable feasts, saints days, fasting days, liturgical seasons and other observances of the year. Of these, I included the celebrations that are my personal favorites. There are many more which would never all fit on a calendar this size, but you can write in as many as you like. 
  • The outer corners are marked by the points of the compass rose, the leaves and arrows, the 8 holidays of the quarter and cross-quarter year. There is extra white space here for you to write in your loved ones' birthdays and other remembrances. 
  • The symbols in the corners are: top right, the Virgin & Child for the Presentation/Candlemas, bottom right, a family heraldic design including four leaves for my 4 children for May Day, at bottom left, a wayside shrine of Christ the teacher surrounded by wheat and flowers for Lammas, at top left, the star of Bethlehem surrounded by heavenly light, for All Saints and Christmas. 
My original drawing is about 15 inches square, but when you print it will turn out something like 8 inches. I have some examples of the colored version on my instagram @la_balbirona and I would love to see your finished versions as well! Use the hashtag #quarterdayscalendar if you post it there.  

Happy New Year!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent 2016

Did I mean to be absent from my blog over a year? No. This was perhaps the busiest year I ever want to experience. All good things but so many things. I was so ready for Advent this year. I happened to google a phrase that popped into my head on November 15, "a homely advent." This is what I wanted. Homely, meaning simple and unsophisticated, not grand and elaborate.

The first few links that popped up in my search for "a homely advent" included a link to The Contemplative Cottage's Celtic Advent Calendar, which began that very day, Nov. 15, forty days before Christmas. This was just the week after our tumultuous presidential election and everyone I knew was either in shock or horrified/terrified, or in dismay at the resulting ugliness of feeling. Tomorrow is three weeks since the election and while many feelings are still volatile, the immediate shock is over.

Focussing on Advent seemed like a calming and positive way forward. I'm directing my energy not on political action or social media debate or researching the rabbit trails of news stories, but on what matters most in the end regardless. I am making a renewed effort to spend time on spiritual reading, prayer, observing the liturgical year, and especially in observing Advent as a distinct period of time of preparation for Christmas. We set out our Nativity scenes and Advent wreath. Christmas decorations and gifts are staying stashed away for a later appearance.

The devotional book I've chosen for this year is "Season of Promises: Praying through Advent with Julian of Norwich, Thomas a Kempis, Caryll Houselander, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, Max Picard" by Mitch Finchley. It's a small book and the daily readings are short but interesting. This year Advent is as long as it can possibly be, the full four weeks, so I'll get to read through it entirely.

Yesterday was the First Sunday in Advent, a cold, wet, miserable day that made it difficult to want to leave the house for Mass. But we made it, and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" was sung, the Advent wreath was blessed and lit, and the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Baptist looked down at us and sang with us, "Come let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord."

The first advent candle is said to represent Hope. Christ Our Hope. Our hope for peace and justice and love and life eternal. "Stay awake! also must be prepared." "Come let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." Let's walk the path of Advent together and not lose hope.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Feast of the Holy Cross

Detail of my Summer 2015 Quarter Year Liturgical Calendar
September 14 - The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of the markers for the seasonal-liturgical calendar year. Holy Cross Day marked the beginning of monastic winter in some communities; the Rule of St. Benedict has a summer and winter schedule for the monks' working, eating, and prayer days, and as the days grew noticeably shorter, this was the point in which the schedule changed over--meals would be lighter since outdoor work would be decreasing. 

"From the Ides of September until the beginning of Lent
let them always take their dinner at the ninth hour.
But this evening hour shall be so determined
that they will not need the light of a lamp while eating,
Indeed at all seasons
let the hour, whether for supper or for dinner, be so arranged
that everything will be done by daylight."
--from Chapter 41 of the RSB

Holy Cross Day also is the marker for the Ember Days at the end of of summer, arriving near the autumnal equinox (September 23 this year) and before the next Quarter Day, Michaelmas (September 29). The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, following the Sunday after Holy Cross Day (got that?), are the Ember Days, which are days of thanksgiving, prayer and fasting in appreciation of the harvest, the fruits of the earth and the fruits of the Spirit, all of which grow and nourish us, thanks to the grace of God. 

Ember Days at a glance
Reflect & orient oneself to the coming season 
Wednesday: give thanks for the harvest - devotion to Mary
Friday: we ask the Lord to bless our labors - light a candle and pray for the souls of loved ones 
Saturday: anticipating the celebration - pray for priests & vocations

These would be good days for garden clean up, planting new trees (before that first frost hits), preparing for colder and wetter days ahead. I have grapes and basil to harvest, as well as a lot of summer greens to clear up and out. The pumpkins and squash are doing great still, but you can feel the garden starting to die back with less sunlight and more cold days.  

Holy Cross is also my parish, so this is our patronal feast day. One Eastern Orthodox Christian practice I read about for Holy Cross is the veneration of the cross (on the vigil of the feast) by placing a small cross on a tray, surrounded by basil leaves and flowers. This would be part of the feast's liturgy, and would be venerated (kissed) and incensed in a procession. This idea could easily be adapted for home use as part of your family evening prayer time. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Autumn 2015

It's my birthday, so like any good hobbit, I have gifts for my party guests! Here is a copy of my Autumn 2015 liturgical quarter calendar for each of you to print and color. Enjoy!

Auturmn 2015 by LeeAnn Balbirona

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In Color: Summer 2015

If coloring isn't your thing, here is a colored version of Summer 2015. 
See the previous post for b&w version.