Commit yourself to the glorious cause that excites you most.
Brigid is the force behind grand ideas and simple comforts. She is direct. quick, enlightening and enlivening. She is the shaft of lightning or the glowing candle that illuminates the world. Brigid’s gifts lie not in what she brings to you, but rather in casting light on what you can bring to the world. Michelle Skye
Here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with the temperature dipping down below zero most nights and rarely making it to double digits at mid-day, it might seem hard to believe that there has been a tipping point. But it’s true; almost two weeks ago now we passed the season’s half-way marker, what the Celtic people call Imbolc, the time of growing light and quivering seeds. I first heard about Imbolc years ago from my friend Ward. We were sitting in my living room, the five of us writers, on an afternoon in late January during another especially cold winter. “Cheer up,” he said gleefully. “Only a few more days until Imbolc!” Imbolc? “What’s Imbolc? ” the rest of us wondered. Sure, we all knew about Ground Hog’s Day, how there were only six more weeks of winter remaining once the little fellow ventured out of his den each February 2nd and either saw or didn’t see his shadow. What we didn’t know was that this American version of mid-winter was a remnant of a more ancient celebration of the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
On that cold wintery day many years ago, with much gusto, Ward proceeded to explain to us that the goddess Brigid, known as Saint Brigit to the Irish Catholics, reigned over this holiday festival. “She’s the goddess of poetry!” he exclaimed to us, his fellow poets. “Goddess of the fire!” “It’s a powerful time,” he added. “Pay attention and you’ll see that there are things awakening in you.” Ward was lit up as he told us about Brigid, how she was said to make her way from door to door on the eve of Imbolc awakening dormant dreams and blessing the seeds that were beginning to quiver in our outer gardens and in our inner Selves. And his enthusiasm for this holiday was contagious. And Brigid — I think she was present lighting us up that day as well. “Happy Imbolc!” we all cried as we said our good-byes. “Happy Imbolc!” we called to each other as we began to pay attention.
And I’ve been doing it ever since, paying attention, as winter makes its way out of the long stretched-out January and into the short spunky month of February. And although it hasn’t been a pre-planned thing, to purposefully choose this half-way marker as an excuse for exotic getaways and Brigit-type celebration, that is what has often happened. I’ve found myself in the most wonderful places for this mid-winter holiday. One year, the year of my fiftieth birthday, I was soaking in a hot spring in Yellowstone with my friend, Laura, in the early evening as the snow softly floated down from the wide-mountain sky, prickling our faces with its icy cold, while, at the same time, our bodies melted into the heat of the bathtub-hot water. And another year, with my pen pal writing sisters, I was hiking up into the mountains, tracing the banks of another hot river in Rio Caliente, Mexico, finding our way to the river’s bubbling source.
It’s easy to see how the seeds would start to quiver when a gal is sprawled out in a steaming pool of mineral water. It’s easy to see how the dreams that were fast asleep would rouse themselves when the bones and the blood in a gal’s winter-bound body begin to thaw. But what about the other years? The years that I spent my mid-winter Imbolc in coastal Maine with my elderly mother in her rickety draft-filled cottage wrapped in layer upon layer of polar fleece and smart wool clothing, or the years that I skate-skied my way through Imbolc’s passage on the groomed trails that cut through the brisk cold of the Upper Peninsula’s woodlands. Regardless of outer temperature, the inner seeds seem to quiver anyway. After I had become aware of this Imbolc mid-winter passage, I began to notice this inner quivering. Not only do the days in early February grow longer and lighter, but, each year, something in me seems to grow lighter as well. I begin to glimpse something new, something that just might be a quivering seed of possibility. One year, the quivering seed showed up as an impulse to buy a new computer, and this seed-implusle sprouted into a more focused writing practice. Another year, the seed took the form of a phone call and two airline tickets to Portugal, and this seed, a surprise trip for my husband, has now blossomed into a yearly tradition of surprising each other with a Mystery Trip. Yet another Imbolc season, I invited the first yoga classes into the not-yet-finished-and-still-unnamed Joy Center, never even daring to dream what would transpire in this space.
It does seem that something shifts not only in the light but in ourselves in the first weeks of February. And, I wonder, can this shift take place during a winter like this one, the Year of the Arctic Blast, a winter in which even we who are snow-lover-skiers are being challenged by the cold? I think so. I’m feeling it. It happened for me a few days after Imbolc. I was at our local library on yet another frigid afternoon, meeting with my friend, Lucy. We do this each month, spend a few hours together, sharing our dreams and bringing each other (and ourselves) up-top-date on what is calling us most alive. It was her feedback to my sharing that did it, that started the seeds quivering. I had told her about the book project that I’m working on, how I am struggling with its form, and then, in a passing moment, had mentioned another project, one that combined art and writing and photos and was messy and would simply have to wait until this one, the one in the forefront, was complete. All she had to say was that it seemed like I was more lit up about the project that was shoved to the back burner — and that was enough. I realized that she was right. I was quivering all over. Could I work on two projects at once?!? And the next day, a third project, one that I had been stuffing deep into a box for years and years, it began to quiver too! What about three books ?!? Can I nurture a whole garden of quivering seeds?!?
I have no idea how this will all transpire, no idea which seeds will firmly take root, no idea how they will look once they have blossomed. It’s not the season for end-product clarity. It’s mid-winter and the days are getting longer and the seeds, they are in there, inside of each of us. Can you feel them? They are just are just beginning to quiver.