Seeking Spring

A Brigid's cross: made, photographed, and kindly shared by my fellow explorer, Mick, who dwells up near the Giant's Causeway.

A Brigid’s cross: made, photographed, and kindly shared by my fellow explorer, Mick, who dwells up near the Giant’s Causeway.

Many folks gravitate to a certain season that resonates with their spirit.

For most of my life, I intensely disliked springtime. Other than being utterly delighted at the appearance of the Snowdrops, I had found the season pastel and painful, and was ever marching arm-in-arm with T.S. Eliot’s

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

(— I. The Burial of the Dead. The Waste Land)

Indeed, I have always been in infatuated with autumn, which many people (very sensibly) view as far more depressing: visibly, it is as replete with death as spring is with renewal. Invisibly, however, every ending is a beginning and vice versa.

Things you think may never change—ah, sometimes they do.

For four years now, I’ve welcomed spring with open arms instead of crossed ones; every season has its own lessons and beauties, trials and gifts.

And for two weeks now, strange new birds have been welcoming the returning sunlight, and I have been anticipating their pre-dawn songs. The daffodils are spearing skywards.

This is still confusing to my North American body; it seems all too early.

But late winter is a time of gestation wherever you are. Burgeonings can be sensed even if they are not obviously seen.

Have you ever noticed a woman—stranger or friend—and realized that she was in the very early stages of pregnancy, without ever being told, and without there being overt evidence and no visible change in weight? It may be her posture, the expression in her eyes, the hue of skin, or an absent-minded gesture that creates a realization based on intuition and/or the observation of subtle changes.

Even if you are on the other side of the pond, it is an ideal time to start glimpsing the early signs of spring at this time of year, for the sun is also returning where you are.

All it takes is some quiet observation.

Adding in some ritual marks your observations in a festive or introspective manner and may help you ready yourself for the seasonal transition.

Too easy it is to forget that our bodies feel the different seasons, and that impacts the mind-body connection.

This is something we particularly struggle with here in Ireland, where you can have the four seasons in one afternoon, so changeable is the weather. Just today alone has been a grand alteration between dark skies with swirling snow(!) and suddenly blue expanses with brilliant sunlight.

And so here enter the backdrop of Imbolc, the Gaelic festival that welcomes the spring, usually on February 1st (although it is a “cross-quarter” date, so halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox—that may often fall between Feb. 2nd-7th if going by astronomical calculation).

The festive day was, like many ancient things, Christianized, and is celebrated as St. Brigid’s Day. By others it is taken to be the day of the Celtic goddess, Brigid. You can still find Brigid’s crosses, fashioned for the occasion, in Irish households.

The word Imbolc can imply “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk”, which returns to the idea of gestation and fertility. The day is traditionally a celebration of hearth and home, returning light, and fertility.

Any day is a cause for celebration. But if you want to celebrate the first signs of spring in a more mindful way this year, try designing your very own ritual. (At Chez Lambert this year, we’ll be foraging and doing spring cleaning, followed by a fire). Or here are some suggestions based on traditional and contemporary elements of Imbolc:

  • a focus on hearth & home
  • special foods (dairy and sometimes seeds)
  • divination
  • fire (bonfire or candles) to celebrate the return of warmth and sunlight
  • visiting holy wells
  • fertility
  • spring cleaning
  • ritual bathing
  • making a Brigid’s cross from rushes or straw (although considered a Christian symbol, its roots also appear to be Celtic)

Regardless of whether your winter is going to be a long or short one this year, go seeking spring. You may just find yourself rejuvenating before you expected to be awakened.

What signs of springtime are around you now? How do you mark the time of awakening?

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