Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It’s Candlemas today—or Groundhog’s day, or Imbolc—the second of February, six weeks from the Winter Solstice, or, as Mark has started calling it, “pre-spring.” Traditionally, it is the day to take the year’s candles to the church to be blessed, to celebrate the slow return of the light, to turn towards spring and Life, and away from winter and the Dark. It balances out Hallowe’en, entering the underworld, and Lammastide, which celebrates the early harvest.
On Sunday, we took our Candlemas walk at the wildlife refuge—Woodpecker to Mill Hill loop and back, a figure eight of a trail, about five miles. Moss was FAT and green, dripping off the alder trees, coating the old oaks, catching the light to glow green with life. Underfoot, moss, lichens and branches litter the ground from winter storms. I nudge larger branches aside as I walk. Mark leaves them be. In the woods, the only thing that is blooming is the Indian Plum, just beginning to leaf out in anew spring green. It’s a pretty unobtrusive shrub most of the year, but, right now, it’s the only thing growing, so it jumps out at you. Robins, steller's jays, juncos, geese all forage at the refuge in winter—you can hear the geese no matter where you are. We ate lunch staring out into a field that has hummed with bees in mid-summer, silent now.
When we came home, we worked in the yard, cutting up old wood, cleaning out the beehive—the bees did not make it through the cold snap in December. I put Lola out in her pen and Lucy chased her around; the chickens were thrilled to dig through the compost and garden beds with company and followed me around, as the big chicken with tools (pitchfork). Snowdrops bloomed in the front yard—and even a few small, yellow crocus. Around five, as it grew dark, we moved inside.
Candlemas is the night we plant tomato, broccoli, cabbage, and flower seeds for the summer. I’ve planted at least 12 of every variety of tomato I want to grow, even though we do not begin to have room for all of the plants. It’s hard to just plant two seeds…and we have a huge tomato plant give-away in early April (Mark refers to it as the Great Tomato Drug deal, as I escort people into the back room to make a deal). Green Grape….Sungold… Black Prince…the names evoke summer sun for us, plants basking outside the south facing living room windows, digging through the vines for dinner. Slowly, we fill the little planters, place seeds, cover, and water. The air smells of damp soil.
After planting, we eat dinner by the fire—cherry pie from filling canned last July, potato and cabbage soup, salad, new bread. It is still clearly winter in our food, but the corner has been turned. The light is coming back.
Tonight, I’ll light the new beeswax candles on the table. Tomorrow, I’ll carry the tomato flats into school, where I have already set up the plant light balanced on some ancient textbooks and two bricks. Spring is coming, even in the middle of Winter.