The Earth Grows Back

Spence here: Imbolc (pronounced im’olk) is a new-ish term to me, but one which I understand from lifetimes ago. Like its lost weird grand-kid, Groundhog Day, Imbolc is a Gaelic festival marking the mid-way point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, where we look forward to the end of winter and new beginnings. The days are getting longer, the sun is throwing back the covers a little more often, dogs and squirrels are getting antsy and people too. Whether or not “Phil” sees his shadow, this time brings about positivity and plans…I recently read in Paris (and maybe many other places), goat herders used to run their goats into town in the early morning, milk them into large pots on people’s doorsteps, whom paid the herder and had fresh milk for the week. For some reason, this delights me, even though I don’t care for goat milk. It reminds me of lost connections and Imbolc feels like that: like waking up in the morning and knowing something special is going to happen.

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.

–Ernest Hemingway

As I ran around the yard taking photos, I realized the essence of Spring is everywhere. Had I noticed until now? Having a name for this future hope is, for me, what Imbolc is about. The plants look a little less threatened by impending frost, less downtrodden with torrential rain—more confident. The dirt looks inviting, more sponge-like and capable. Even the lemon tree, wrapped in wool blankets on the porch has taken a step forward with multiple buds and a cheery disposition. I, too, am still wrapped in long underwear and two sweaters, much like the Midwest and east, still under snow and hibernation, but warming with excitement of grander days and plans.

The seeds of the New Year have not yet been soaked, nor awakened, but maybe sorted. I have plans this year to take a sailing class, a wild edible plants class and to volunteer at the small wooden craft (boat) center, here in Portland. I have already started to volunteer at a non-profit bike shop called Bike Farm. I am still looking for a good job, which I would love at the very least to teach me something new. More music and school are also on the burner.

This morning I woke up on the Malabar Coast–the Western ocean side of India. Just kidding. But recently, I have been writing short stories of fiction which have foreign (foreign to me anyway) backdrops for the characters. One is about a woman who is a reporter, who ends up on a desolate beach in Jamaica, with marijuana runners. Another is about an older Italian man, trying to convince his landlord that he is actually his French twin brother. Billy and I got to talking today about the spice trade and I decided Malabar is somewhere I want to go, if not for the black pepper I could get there, but for the culture, the fishing and the food. I am interested in stories that change us and want to actively seek those out this year, in writing or learning. These are the seeds of our imagination, but they can also be what determine our next planting. Instead of feeling like the New Year’s resolutions have worn off, we want to reconnect and recommit throughout the year, following these rituals (like Imbolc) from the land and the sky, such as our ancestors did.

Imbolc is an honoring of what’s not present yet. It represents the words yet to be spoken, the potential in our spirits, the ‘calm before a storm’ of growth, the quiet before the show, and the unknown baby before its birth…Imbolc’s beauty is in its waiting and not knowing.

– Heather Greene

Billy here. Here in the Pacific Northwest the bulbs and buds are starting out, but the days are still short and grey. The full moon behind the light-polluted clouds woke us up last night and I thought it was almost dawn. I was about to get up and make breakfast when Spence checked the watch and reported that it was only 2:11am. The old festival of Imbolc seems like this to me: the light of the full moon before dawn. There is so much strength in spring. Each year, no matter how brutal the winter, the plants always grow back.

That being said, the fact weighs heavy that the world is warming irreversibly due to our industrial ways. It has been said that we can’t buy our way out of climate change. We all have our strong opinions and we can’t seem to agree globally on a politically acceptable way to end the runaway train our hunger for resources has started. For me, it’s all about habit. In New Mexico, when I lived off of the grid with my only source of water being rain barrels, I found it easy to conserve water because it was a necessity. If I took too many showers I didn’t have enough water to drink. It was simple and immediate. I didn’t feel like I was doing without, because I was so thankful for what I did have. In the city, with instant gratification capitalism at my feet, I find myself using more and taking more as more time passes from my memory of living lightly in the desert.

In times of old, when we were all, Europeans included, indigenous to a place and behaved as such, we celebrated many festivals such as Imbolc during a year, to remind ourselves of the pact between ourselves and the ecosystem we called home.

Your family is your entire village with all its inhabitants, living or dead.

And your relatives aren’t only human.

Your family also speaks to you in the crackling of the fire,

in the murmur of running water,

in the breathing of the forest,

in the voices of the wind,

in the fury of thunder,

in the rain that kisses you,

and in the birdsong that greets your footsteps.

-Eduardo Galeano

We can spark renewals with intention and this intention takes practice and discipline. It is not enough to make resolutions once a year. It takes a lot of energy to change a habit. I found this list in the front of my journal for 2015, so I thought I would share it here:

  • thinking happens with the heart, not just the mind, try and get out of the limitations of mind
  • you are not the one creating, you are co-creating with your environment, your tools and the medium itself
  • change mediums frequently to better understand the relationship with each one
  • express with the whole body, from the feet up, every note and brushstroke
  • act and participate, move through and dissolve resistances. what are the resistances telling you? you can ask this question while still not letting the resistance paralyze you
  • re-tune daily – listen to your body, the environment, dreams, plants, weather
  • discipline in flexibility
  • allow trickster to play – practice unstructured playfulness
  • life is art – every small act of love is a creative act – sandpaintings are lost shortly after their creation and the art of keeping house is just as ephemeral – do not succumb to materialist art! the finest art is the way we live – something that can never be captured or put in a musuem

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