at the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal (spring) equinox, is the ancient cross-quarter celebration of imbolc. also known as st. brigid’s day, it has survived cultural adaptation through the years, from the celtic to the christian, where it became known as candlemas, to our modern time groundhog day. i love that seemingly obscure traditions often have very sacred and primal history. imbolc was, among other things, a time of weather forecasting and prognostication. a chance to really take note of what was going on in nature. what does the air smell like? are the flower bulbs awakening? how busy are the birds; do they seem hungrier than usual, are they already gathering twigs? and what about the mammals? are the badgers out of their burrows? what tracks did you find in the snow this morning. and here in north america… has the groundhog emerged, and if so, what is her activity like?
so imbolc is a time to pause and take notice. it’s still winter, yes. and although the sun is still weak, the days are getting longer. here in san francisco, the nights are still cold, and rain is on the horizon. but the air smells different. there is a freshness, and i feel an upsurge of hope. everything seems so fragile and tender still, as do the pale green leaves sprouting at the very top of the plum tree in the garden. our rose plant, so ravaged by saw flies and bare branched, even she has encouraging new growth, saying “see? see? you thought i was dead and yet life still stirs within. take heart…just when you have forgotten how the ice always thaws, just when you have forgotten of the seed you planted so long ago in summer, just when… i am here to remind you.”