Halfway to Spring
Bosque del Apache
We call it Groundhog Day, Candlemas if we're Catholic or Imbolc if we're Druids. The festival begins on February 1 and ends at sundown on February 2nd. Imbolc marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and among Druids it celebrates Brighid, goddess of the hearth and of healing, poetry, smiths, midwifes and muses. Bake a poppyseed cake, roast the last of your winter squashes, burn frankincense and wear red, black and white.
Imbolc is a time when we notice the days are lengthening even as we fear that some of the bitterest storms of winter are likely still ahead. It is also when flu carries off the unsuspecting young and fragile old. Late winter and spring are traditionally hungry time as food stocks from autumn begin to dwindle. Half of winter still remains. If you brave the cold to see him, Orion is still high in the night sky, wearing his starry belt and carrying his bow, his two dogs at his heels.
Here in the Rio Embudo Valley the chickadees have started singing spring songs. My friend, Robert, an expert birder, says they start every year right about now. For these dapper little birds it is already time to seek a mate and claim a territory. The tree man comes to prune my apple trees and encourages me to replace an ailing cherry. The greenhouse is full of lettuce, chard, kale, collards and daikon. It will soon be time to start spring plants. The cat sits in the sun behind the storm door and contemplates going out. Something in the light stirs to remind us spring is coming.The peaks of the Sangre de Cristos I see from my desk are well-blanketed in snow but farmers know even more is needed to reach normal rates. Any kind of thaw at this time of year prompts worries of a hot, dry miserable spring, when winds whip up wildfires.
I remember in childhood how the winter dragged on so dreadfully long. Day after cold day, going to school, coming home, lost under the grey Ohio River Valley cloud cover. By Groundhog Day, I sought signs of spring in every increasing millimeter of crocus leaves that emerged from the soggy garden soil. Now, when the seasons pass far too quickly, I try to cherish each seasonal indication as a marker in the blur of time, a moment to stop and appreciate, be it a fresh, wet snow or a wasp waking up on a warm windowsill. I need to be just exactly where I am in this moment, in this place, and as I am, exactly as I am. That is how I will celebrate Imbolc. Join me!