What is stirring in your belly? An invitation to you and to me.

imbolc

Today is the day in the earth’s cycle that falls halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox, one of my favorite of the earth’s many nudges to pay attention. It seems that this threshold in the earth’s cycle, though cross culturally bursting with celebration and imbued with great meaning, is relatively unknown in America. Oh yes, we have groundhog’s day, a secularized trivialization, which could in truth provide us a meaningful symbol if we’d approach it with such intentionality (Is it time to come forth or do I require more dwelling-in-darkness time?) Around the world and across spiritual traditions this is the time to look for such signs, to determine if more time is needed for something to die back –become humus perhaps– before the stirrings of new life can begin. St Brigid, sometimes referred to as Goddess of summer, blows out the fire of winter On St Brigid’s eve before lighting the new one, even as the old crone Calleiach, Queen of winter, goes out in search of wood for the continued stoking her own long winter’s fire. Thus the old crone and the maiden merge into one as the earth makes it gradual rebirth from winter to spring. Shepherds look for signs of life in the bellies and teats of their winter flocks, and wise woodswomen look for snakes- feminine symbol of healing and transformation– emerging from their winter lairs. In the Christian tradition of superimposing its story upon the backdrop of the nature-honoring spiritual traditions, this is the date earmarked as the day Mary is allowed back into the temple; it is the end of her 4th trimester and this moment marks her own passage from gestating-and-becoming a mother to being one, ready to present her gift to the world. Of course, she is also, according to ancient law, no longer bleeding and so is able to receive seed–she has made the transition to virgin again, time to begin anew. And so, the Great Mother Earth, having given birth to her own fruits in great, overflowing abundance the previous autumn and lain quiet in rest for the winter, is also ready to receive the seeds of spring’s great stirring-to-life as she shifts.

What is stirring to life in you this day? What needs a bit more incubation? Is something in you ready to peek tentatively out, or perhaps more earnestly announce it’s presence? Or are you begging for just a bit more winter? What old fire is dying down, making way for, or perhaps even kindling, a new one? What is it that has lain dormant and is now ready to take life? Take some time to journal, pray, play, walk with this. If you do, I’d love to hear about its revelations for you.

Accepting my own invitation to ponder these questions, I realize that something akin to grace is stirring, even pushing to life, in me. And, like many seeds with hard coats of protection, there has been a concomitant softening as the germ has pushed to take root.

Last fall, if you recall, I was intimately drawn to the dying seedheads in the meadow, which had emerged in an opening that had been created by the devastation of the trees that once canopied the land on that hillside.  I was captivated by the prolific and wildly diverse impulse for survival, for life.  In all honesty, I had quite forgotten about those seeds until I sat to write this response and the image of that hardened seed beneath the soil, being softened by the damp earth of winter’s thaw, pushed its way forth onto the page.

Then, I was aware only of the hardness , unaware of the specifics of the yet vulnerable hope it protected.  I simply felt the coldly critical defensiveness of this shell of me. As autumn turned toward winter, several books fell off of shelves and booklists onto my lap, books that began to soften the seed I’d released to the earth’s safe-keeping, not knowing how to open it myself. There was no conscious intentionality in the selection of them, at least not in regards to the feelings of hardness I was experiencing in regards to others.  Each seemed to be addressed specifically to me and, like any long soaking will do, each unfolded something me, softening scabs, removing encrustments.

There were other ‘yeses’, seemingly unconnected – a letter writing day here, an old album of photographs there, a television program, a film. And suddenly I am feeling again, feeling something far more tender than anger or anxiety, more healing than guilt or shame. Something like ‘understanding’ and the peace that passes it. The word that comes for me is grace (as in the Encarta English dictionary of North America definition number 3, the capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people)…..not only for the other but for myself.

And therein lies the secret transformation, hidden beneath the soil, in the dark, how it is that somehow taking myself off the hook of self-blame for the pain of certain persons in my life has enabled me to see them through eyes of compassion that is not about my subsequent need to do penance, nor theirs.

Last fall, I thought the hardness was protecting a space of my own, ( eg Virginia Woolf’s, Room of her Own) my defensiveness fiercely guarding that space for myself and ‘my turn’. Today, I am not so sure. Perhaps that hardness was simply protecting my softness, safeguarding my humanity.

On this bleak mid-winter day, as I pause to notice the warmth even here, I feel, beneath the surface this stirring to life, something I may not have known or named before today.  And yet, in this moment, I still cannot see how it will unfold, what it will look like. There is a part of me that doesn’t know how to inhabit, or to embody, this awareness, that doesn’t know how to move yet. How is acceptance embodied? What color is forgiveness? In what shape does compassion unfold? There are other parts of me here in the dark that fear being squashed by the boot again, or yanked as a weed, or killed back by late winter frosts if I emerge from the soil just now. These awareness remind me not to force the seed, to trust the natural processes of life. ‘Let it be’ seems to be the message, after all.

For today, it is simply the softness I feel.  For today, that is enough .

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