Winter Rest, Light Expands


Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the cardinals
that have gathered
in the icy branches

for a musical battle
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

of the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?

Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air.

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude —

believe us, they say
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance

It could mean something
It could mean everything
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote

You must change your life.

(by Mary Oliver,
with my apologies
for substituting cardinals in winter)

Dear Dear Ones,

So today (January 30, as I write this) is my birthday and I am giving myself the gift of spending time writing to you! It feels like a delightful way to sink into time and space, or maybe outside of time and space, into that liminal and luminous place where we touch into our deepest heart’s aim and wish. What joy! Can’t really think of a better birthday gift than that. Well, except for and along with my beloveds singing to me and getting to have a piece of my very favorite cake and blow out a few candles.

Bright Cardinal sings the first bird song heralding spring, even though spring is still weeks off. Here we are at the traditional observance of Mid-Winter, the hearth-fire festival of Imbolc in the northern hemisphere. Although we may still be in the dark deep gloom, a rosy light is returning, quickening days and evenings. The tiny green shoots still unseen, feeding on the stored energy in the seed, begin their journey up toward the sun. Imbolc means “in the belly” for this was the time of ewes birthing their lambs, a sure notice of life continuing on.  (Is anyone watching All Creatures Great and Small on PBS?) When we as humans lived in closer remembrance of our ties to the Earth and our Animal and Plant Kin, making it through the winter was not assured. The deep rest in the winter season was a necessary time of replenishment, recovery and conservation of energy. By Imbolc, we could sense that slim yet strong thread of Hope that spring will come, that energy will rise again.

So this holy-day is dedicated to Brigid, Celtic fire goddess associated with the forge and the hearth, sacred wells, poetry, healing, domestic animals and livestock, childbirth, prophecy and unity. What a rich list of responsibilities she carries. The fact that the fire for this celebration burns in the hearth, the inner fire inside the home honors Brigid’s role as keeper of the hearth and fertility. It is said that wherever Brigid walked, even as a small child, tiny flowers and shamrocks would appear. Can you imagine?? Perhaps this is the way the Earth responds when a being so integrated in true peace, wholehearted love and everpresent light walks by.

Saint Brigid of Kildare  is said to have lived c 451-525, and carried the blessing of the Goddess forward. Here is one of her stories:  Brigid was born into slavery and served as a house servant in her father’sfrom the time she was a child, Brigid was known for her habit of charity, which led her to donate her father’s belongings to anyone who asked. Her father is portrayed as having been so annoyed with Brigid that he took her to the king to sell her. While her father was talking to the king, Brigid gave away the king’s bejewelled sword to a beggar to barter it for food to feed his family. The king recognized Brigid’s holiness and convinced her father to grant her freedom.

So as we approach these first days of February — feel free to call it Spring if you resonate with the Celtic view — these are the days we may begin to hear Cardinal, both male and female, as they return to song. In the winter, singing is too recklessly energy-intensive; Cardinal must dedicate all their efforts to finding food and staying warm — a balance of fat enough to stay warm and light enough to fly quickly. But now…..we can see Spring from here! Just like Brigid shows us — Hope calls forth that song!  Hope, not for a particular outcome, but Hope as Rest and Trust and Resonance with the deeper rhythms of our lives and the lives of all beings on Earth.
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world

Imbolc is a perfect time to light candles inside, spring clean (get a new broom?), or commit to a decision through first action — coupled with the new moon this past weekend makes this extra-potent.

Cardinal Song

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