Cycles – Hebrew Phenology Wheels

Riv Shapiro

About Riv Shapiro

Riv (they/them) is a queer artist, outdoor educator and Jewish ritualist. After seven years working with innovative Jewish organizations and film clients in the Bay Area, Riv now serves as Arts & Culture Producer in their hometown of Minneapolis at the Minnesota JCC (Dakota land). Their creative work is process-oriented and often participatory, reveling in the intersections of ancestors, interspecies relationship, justice, queerness and spirituality. Blending the roles of Educator, Priestess and Artist, Riv is dedicated to sharing the wisdom and the medicine of their Jewish ancestors through adaptive, accessible, and liberatory means.

About Cycles – Hebrew Phenology Wheels

Phenology “wheels” are interactive lunar calendars that aid our awareness of seasonal shifts through recording observations like sunrise and sunset time, temperature and weather, and plant and animal behavior. I created a phenology wheel for each Hebrew month of 5781, often including great detail alongside illustrations of natural phenomena and interspecies kin.I offer this practice as a ritual tool for those seeking a deeper connection with land and natural cycles. Shmita serves as a relatively large-scale cycle marker, calling us into a renewal of our relationship with land and with our own true nature. Becoming aware of our belonging within an ecosystem has the potential to fundamentally transform our conceptions of selfhood, and bring about the type of world envisioned by shmita values.

Place your wheel/calendar where you will see it every day. If possible, choose a consistent time you will engage with it each day. You may choose to open the day by recording sunrise/sunset time and weather and close the day by recording any observations of plants/animals or your own inner world. Commit to at least 5-15 minutes in the day for observation of the natural world. This could be done from your window, in a hitbodedut/sit spot practice, or on a walk around the block. Open your senses. What do you smell? What creatures do you hear? Who is blooming? How does the air feel on your skin? Where is the sun in the sky? Are there edible plants growing? Bring particular attention to how these details indicate and reflect where you are in the cycle of the year. What is different than it was two moons ago? Six?

As you bring your attention to the ecosystem you’re embedded within, make an effort to learn about the other species you live amongst. If a bird catches your eye, watch them and gather as much information as you can about their appearance and behavior. The MerlinID app or website can help you identify who you are seeing. Likewise, get curious about the plants around you. If you have a smartphone, snap a photo and use a plant ID app like iNaturalist or Seek to learn about them. Introduce yourself. If you are moved or wish to deepen these relationships, make an offering such as water, herbs, birdseed, or song.

Optional: At full moon, at the end of the month or throughout the month, look back on your observations and try your hand at drawing something/someone you saw!

Discuss with your chevrutah: What or whom did you notice? What seasonal particularities are you aware of? Did you meet any new species? What was it like to offer your attention in this way? Did it change how you relate to place? Is there an element of this practice you would like to sustain?

I have created 29-day and 30-day templates. Reproduction would involve sharing the templates and, optionally, writing in the dates for each moon cycle.