This is the first post in my series about activities for the eight holidays throughout the wheel of the year. We are now between the winter solstice and the spring quinox at the holiday known as Candlemas, Imbolc or Groundhog Day.
What inspires me to take off?
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about this day in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. There are a few traditional threads that weave through it all:
- Groundhog Day, when the behaviour of one groundhog is supposed to predict the weather for the next coiple of weeks.
- The blessing of candles on the feast day of Candlemas.
- The feast day of St. Brigid or her divine predecessor Brighid, the goddess of poetry, blacksmithing, inspiration and healing.
My thoughts about this day eventually crystallised into the following main themes: Finding the right moment, striking a balance between being patient and starting, forging plans as well as contracts and listening to inspiration.
In the following paragraphs you will find suggestions that may help you experience these themes more tangibly, also some descriptions of my own activities and experiences. I will put in further details details to this blog post on the 2.2. and keep adding new thoughts and ideas in the future.
In my surrounding area most of nature is very much ready to launch into a new seasonal cycle. The first tiny green shoots can be seen when you peer closely into the neighbourhood gardens. Very early hazels have now been in bloom for two weeks while the rododendron buds have been waiting for their big show since last year.
It is still very obviously winter, the weather is grey and wet, but the grey itself is much lighter and friendlier than back at the start of the year. The world is waiting for „Go!“ This time I did not take home any physical objects just an number of pictures taken on a surprisingly sunny day at end of January.
I chose a couple of trees which might turn out to be the one special subject for a year long observation. In the following days I will make a final decision on one of them.
What does your neighbourhood look like at the moment? Is nature a bit ahead where you live? Or is is still clinging to hibernation?
In my own garden I can see a few early bulbs peeking up from the soil. Unfortunately I am not sure what exactly I planted in that spot. So much for carefully drafting contracts. Some of the roses are testing the waters by growing a few green leaves already. Otherwise not much is happning. For my part, I have also not yet really lauched myself into the gardening year. What I did was put some sweet potatoes into water so the can sprout new roots. This year I really am on time with this task.
On the 2nd of February I want to sit and focus on the planning of my garden setup for the year. Which vegetables I want to give another go, where they are going to be planted, what I am going to cultivate in the raised beds, where I could squeeze in some more shadow plants and ground covers. You can find advice on gardening in February here and here. Of course what will flourish and when you have to do certain tasks depends on the region you live in.
The birds that regularly make appearances in our garden are are tits, magpies and jays. On top of that we are lucky enough to have some squirrels regularly sauntering through our garden all around the year.
What is the current state of your garden, balcony or windowsill? Do you already have plans for the coming gardening season?
Apart from my own meditation there is a broad variety of other choices to be found online, covering different styles and durations. There are also yoga flows suited for the occasion. Another option would be to create a fitting atmosphere and just quietly meditate on one or more of the themes of the day.
There is always the traditional approach of making a St. Brigid‘s cross. At first I wanted to make an origami anvil but could not find a tutorial and did not have the motivation to figure it out on my own.
In the end I decided to simply make a mini cardboard easel for my focus which I can present different pictures on throughout the year. I followed these instructions originally meant for making a phone stand. For the 2nd of February it will carry a white piece of paper, a blank canvas waiting for inspiration to strike.
Listening to or making music
Searching for appropriate music, I found a vast array of different interpretations of the current themes. Just looking into classical music pieces about winter the question was less about when to start but where to stop.
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel‘s version of February is about her remembering the carnical in Italy. Händel‘s „Harmonious Blacksmith“ is very probably not based on Händel having to seek shelter from the rain in a smithy listening to the smith sind a jaunty tune, as the legend goes. Still this piece demonstrates the meaing of timing just like the rather humourous “Anvil Polka by the Allendorf Orchestra.
Florence and the Machine‘s Dog days are over can be interpreted on a variety of levels. What makes it capture the beginning of February for me is the colour scheme of the video and the refrain that was inspired by the writing on a wall of a building in London. Florence herself says:
„It’s a reference to the dog star, Sirius. When it was closest to the Earth, all the animals would get languid and sleepy. When it moved away, they’d wake up.“
Of course the metal genre also delivers some approriate offerings. In The Old Ones Are with Us Wolves in the Throne Room sing about „winter dying“ and the melting of the ice. When it comes to pagan folk, Damh the Bard welcomes the returning Bridhid in a more melancholic way.
This concludes my music list for the moment. It is likely that I will come across some other songs in the future which I will then add.
I did not come up with entire books on the themes of the day but I found some inspiring poems. One of them is:
Though Winter still asserts his right to reign,Rebecca Hey
He sways his sceptre now with gentler hand;
Nay, sometimes softens to a zephyr bland
The hurrying blast, which erst along the plain
Drove the skin-piercing sleet and pelting rain
In headlong rage; while, ever and anon,
He draws aside his veil of vapours dun,
That the bright sun may smile on us again.
To-day ‘twould seem (so soft the west wind’s sigh)
That the mild spirit of the infant Spring
Was brooding o’er the spots where hidden lie
Such early flowers as are the first to fling
On earth’s green lap their wreaths of various dye—
Flowers, round whose forms sweet hopes and sweeter memories cling.
And a quote that I like so much I have had it it on my wall for a long time now is:
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.Arthur Ashe
These are the questions that might be helpful to ask yourself or the oracle of your choice:
- Which contract will you strike with yourself and with the world?
- What is holding you back?
- What inspires you?
- What will be the first step?
Focussing on your most important findings
I am put together my own focus gathering all my findings. A very important element is the rolled-up conctract I made with myself for the coming year. Let’s see what kind of fruit it will bear..
What are the most meaningful answers to the questions above, the most fitting quotes or poems? Is there a piece of music that cou can condense into a word, a phrase or a symbol? Did you find an object outside that deserves to be showcased on your focus?
What about you?
Do you have a tradition for the 2nd of February? How do you like the second and lighter half of winter?