Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Là Fhèill Brìghde

Spring has been stirring already - unusually early for these parts considering previous experience - so celebrations began on time this year, and with less panicking than last year.

The trees are starting to grow their tiny leaf buds:

And the bulbs are proudly poking up through the ground and there are even some early daffodils thinking about blooming already. Aside from the storms I've been mentioning, we've had an exceptionally mild winter. There is snow on the mountain tops, across the water from us, but here we've only had a few slushy flurries so far. That's all changing, though; right now we're in the middle of a cold snap, which has finally necessitated putting the heating on to encourage ourselves out of bed in the morning.

We're getting an arctic blast just now, and apparently it will be hanging around. The day has dawned bright and frosty - sunny but bitter - I'm not sure whether that counts as fair or foul considering the weather prognostications for today, but according to the Met Office there's plenty of wintry weather yet to come.

Still, life is stirring.

The preparations began with the usual cleaning and tidying, and then, while Tom was still at school and it was just me and Rosie for the afternoon, we set about making our dealbh Bride. We all made one last year, but this time I didn't have time to include Tom in the preparations (I'm generally at my most able in the early afternoon, so I have to seize opportunities as they present themselves). I used his icon last year anyway, so this time I decided we should use Rosie's anyway.

She chose the colours and the materials for decoration, and I cut and bent things as necessary, and this is what we ended up with:

As we made the icon, I told Rosie about the story of Brigid, and how she would be coming to visit us in the night. I told her that the little icon we were making was so that Brigid would know she was welcome and that we were ready for her visit. This got Rosie very excited. "Mummy, we should make her a bed, in case she gets tired!" Thusly, Rosie set about with feathers and paper and glue to make a comfortable 'bed' while I did the fiddly bits for the icon. As she went about her work she said, "Can we put some food out for her as well? She might be hungry." Yes, I said, I will leave some of our dinner out for her, and pudding too. Sometimes it amazes me how a child's mind works.

As we began decorating the icon, Rosie decided that the lady who was coming to visit us must be a princess, because she has such pretty hair and such a lovely long dress. Ladies who wear long dresses must be princesses. But wait! What about pants? (Underwear). We can't make an dolly to welcome the 'princess' in and have it knickerless, that would be rude!

And so Rosie set about making a pair of woollen pants for the icon of a goddess.

After that, we sat about making our seasonal mural, which I put up in the kitchen for the quarter. I put some paper out and asked her what sort of things she thought of when she thought about Spring. "Flowers." So flowers it was. Then butterflies. Then flowers still in bud, because lots of things are still growing. And sunshine. Oh, and sailboats, so she stuck down the sea and made a boat to go on top. Then she drew in the sailor, but something was still missing...a surf board! In that went too. And green hills, with sheep! But we need a fence...

And this is how it ended up:

For once, the picture is totally Rosie's own idea, rather than something I've come up with, hence the gigantic flowers to the right and the blue sheep in the middle...Tom wasn't too interested in doing his own picture (he's less interested in artistic stuff, unless it involves computers, and after a long day at school that sort of thing probably seems like more work for a six-year-old). Instead, when Tom got home we made cakes, and I let Tom decide on the colour of icing. He decided he wanted blue, but said that maybe we should do some pink as well, because Rosie likes pink. So both it was:

The first batch I over-cooked, so I had to do another batch in the end, even though everyone insisted the slight crunchiness was yummy, but no! Everything must be just so. The burnt ones are offerings to the land spirits, as is traditional...

Then there was dinner - to be honest I didn't have any because I can't stomach much at the moment, so I had a bit of veg and that was that. Communal feasting is difficult when one cannot sit or stomach too much food, but there isn't much I can do about that, really. Everyone else enjoyed it, at least. Rosie told everyone that a special lady was coming to visit tonight, and could she stay up to meet her?

After the kids were in bed I needed some time to sit down and relax for a bit - it had been a busy day by my current standards, so while I would rather have spent the whole evening ritualising and quietly contemplating, meditating and generally being, it was going to have be somewhat shortened and done before bedtime while the next lot of painkillers did their magic.

Thankfully the dealbh Bride had dried, and so after my usual offerings and Good Wishing and saining and so on, my devotions began. I sang (or...attempted to...), and prayed, and welcomed Brigid in. As I opened the door to invite her in one of our cats came in and proceeded to make an unholy racket. In the end, I couldn't proceed to placing the dealbh Bride in her bed (the feather bed that Rosie had made, placed in the clay cros Bride basket I made last year) without carrying and fussing the cat at the same time, so that was definitely not how I expected things to go.

I managed to do everything I wanted but didn't have the chance to take time to contemplate outside as I like to; just take the chance to breathe and feel and think after I make my offerings to finish things off for the night. I had to go lie down, so I took myself off to bed and did the contemplation there instead. I felt restless and unsatisfied with myself in a way, because I wanted to be able to do things like I usually do, but at the same time I had to admit to myself that I can only do what my body is capable of, and things are going to have be different from now on. I should stop being so bloody stubborn. On the one hand, I think things were successful, but on the other I think being in such pain as I was meant I wasn't as focused or in the moment as I usually am. It was there, thinking and letting my body rest that I was finally able to feel, and focus. It was then that I felt connected.

I slept surprisingly deeply and well - a novelty for me these days, to be sure. Getting up was definitely easier than it has been for a long while, anyway. Tom spent the morning complaining that his tooth hurt, and sure enough he has his first wobbly milk tooth. Perhaps very apt, considering.

Today I've done some more devotions and will do some more baking if I'm up to it - some bannocks, perhaps - and then more offerings to finish off. There may be some colder weather yet to come, but that's par for the course in these parts. Even so, in this house at least, spring has been welcomed in; its promise has not gone unnoticed. I don't know how much I will be able to do in the garden this year, but I will at least be able to appreciate the warmer weather and the sun on my skin in the coming months, and the idea of that - after all the wind and rain and the dark cloud we've had - warms by bones just thinking about it.