Brigidtide – Shy and Tender

Brigid Hearth Altar 2023

Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, Imbolc, Groundhog Day – by any of its names, we are in one of the four cross-quarter tides of the year, coming as it does between midwinter and vernal equinox.  It is the quickening time, but for me the first stirrings of early spring are more shy and tender than usual.

I have been beset by physical calamities small and not so small since November: a fall which fractured my left hand, but only a small break; a skin cancer on my face, small, squamous and spreading; trouble with my teeth (not so small). Then the whole household came down with Covid after Christmas. If that was the evolved and thus milder version of the virus, I’m glad we didn’t get it when it first appeared almost three years ago in 2020.

Taken all together, the message was clear that I should slow my roll, which I have done. Rest and more rest. Rest and reset.

It’s a time of dedication and purification. In Roman times this season was called Juno Februata and was a time to cleanse and clear from the winter to make way for the new. I often feel like this is when the new year really arrives, the fireworks beginning to go off days before the lunar new year, celebrated by my Asian neighbors this year on January 22.

I know Brigid is getting near when I see the coral pink blossoms of the flowering quince on my twilight walks, the best time to see the glorious winter sunsets. These flowers  are irresistible to me, and I break off a few twigs from the creekside bramble.

Brigid-Flowering Quince

I am still feeling timorous, as secretive and unfurled as this bud pictured below. On the first of February I went to my favorite nursery, Yamagami’s, to find a flowering quince for my own garden, instead of breaking off branches from other people’s. It is the last proper nursery I know of in our former Valley of Heart’s Delight, which at one time had abundant nurseries supplying the many orchardists who gave the valley its name. The staff there is wonderful and steered me toward the classic color, called Pink Lady. The hybridizers have had their fun and now you can have scarlet or orange blooms, but for me, this deep pink is Brigid’s color.

Brigid-Quince Bud

I love the fall and spring fruits of the garden in this photo, the pumpkin remaining from October’s  Samhain and the basket of late January oranges from our tree. They symbolize the two sabbats which bracket Yule with their cheery, fiery color.

Brigid-Orange FruitsAt every turn of the Wheel, I dip into my archives to see how I celebrated in the past. I recorded each one faithfully here for ten years until I abandoned the routine to concentrate on book writing. The habit became ingrained and sometimes I miss the practice.

Here at Brigidtide I am rededicating myself to write in this space more often. In the early days I wrote frequently and briefly. By that I mean I didn’t worry about polishing so much, and didn’t venture much into big-theme essays. I let it be more daily, more humble.

I am still writing, tremulous through trying times, reaching for words, pinning them to the page to catch the beauty and the frailty. This morning I woke before dawn, and the setting full moon shone on my face.

It was a benediction.

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