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Happy Feast of Brighid

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I thought of calling this post “Stupid Groundhog” but why be so negative?  That “Will there be six more weeks of winter?” question was meaningless back in Pennsylvania, where I knew I couldn’t get out in the garden until late March – and then only on good days.  It is equally meaningless here in the desert southwest where this is the beginning of spring.  But I suppose there must be some place where the question is worth asking.

I’ve celebrated the Feast of Brighid instead for several years now.  She is a Celtic goddess who is also a patron saint of poetry and smithcraft,  I use this date as a moment to consider what I’ve accomplished since the solstice, and ask whether there’s anything I’d like to do differently in the approximately six weeks until the spring equinox, that official start of spring.  Working for myself, I don’t have any deadlines to speak of, so a check-up point seems like a good idea.  But, since an artist never really knows where she’s going, it is all approximate.

One thing I do know.  This is the date when I realize that once again I am behind on the garden work.  So many plants should be cut back in January, I never get to them all.

Close up of rosemary branches that need to be cut back.

Close up of rosemary branches that need to be cut back.

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Feast of Bridget

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It’s another marking point in the eight-part year, half way from the winter solstice to the spring equinox, variously known at Imbolc, the feast of Bridget, a fire goddess, and Groundhog day.  I prefer Bridget, because she is said to be the patron of blacksmiths and poets, a fiery combination if there ever was one.

In Pennsylvania they make a big thing of the groundhog.  But shadow or no shadow, we knew there would be six more weeks of winter.  The traditional day to plant spinach where I lived was March 17.  We liked to pretend that spring began in early March with the big flower show, but that only happened indoors.

Here in the desert, this is the beginning of spring.  I’m behind in the garden already, because there are still two plants, one tall grass and a chamisa, which need serious cutting back before they begin to put out green again.  I intended to cut them back in January, but I only got half way around the yard.

One of the treats of this point in the year is that the sun rises between the time I get up and the time I settle in to work at my desk.  This means that I get to enjoy some grand light shows.P1000030

This one came on January 31, as if to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  It is an added pleasure to have a new camera with which to –approximately–capture the moment.P1000031

Not Just the Groundhog

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There’s more to say about Thomas Paine, but today is another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It’s an appropriate time to pause and appreciate the cycle of the year which shapes our lives, whether we admit it or not.

The Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year

February 2 did not always belong to the groundhog.  In Christian tradition this is candlemas.  The name comes from the blessing of candles.  The day also marks the 40th day after Christmas, which was a day for purification of the mother after giving birth in Jewish tradition.

The association of this day with light goes back before Christianity.  And with light goes fire.  The tradition I like best associates this day with Brigid, either a saint or a goddess depending on your beliefs, who is the patroness of poets and blacksmiths.

Why this combination of poets and blacksmiths?  I think it is because they both deal with fire, although one is literal and the other metaphorical.  They both are makers, crafters, one in matter and one in language.  I don’t recall where I learned of Brigid and her support of this particular pair.  Other sources assign additional causes to her, but I prefer to stick with these two.

I learned of Brigid in Pennsylvania, not too far from the site of Punxatawny Phil, that obnoxious groundhog who gets most of the attention on Groundhog Day.  In that part of the country it is a given that there will be six more weeks of winter whether he sees his shadow or not.  In contrast to his big show (I wonder how many groundhogs have played the role) I light a candle and celebrate the returning light, the lengthening days, and the fact that this old earth has still not been thrown off its axis by the follies of human beings.