Image: Snowdrops.

Today we celebrated Imbolc in our little cabin in the woods.

Imbolc is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring. It celebrates the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. In Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates to “ewe’s milk”, and is sometimes referred to as the festival of the lactating sheep. It is the time when herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. Spring and the planting season are near. It is the time for the Blessing of seeds and the consecration of agricultural tools. The goddess (or saint) Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit, St Bridget), is honored at Imbolc. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft. Snowdrops, referred to as the first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter, are often associated with Imbolc. I have always called them Springdrops, and I am hoping there might be some hiding around the old homestead sites near here.

Strangely enough, Imbolc is also my birthday. My Dad seemed to have taken February 1st as the beginning of the “lambing season” seriously to heart – he always bred his cows, and apparently his wife as well, so that the calves/babies were born starting at the beginning of February. This birthday marks the beginning of my 5th decade – maybe after 50 years I’ve finally garnered enough wisdom to be doing something useful with my life!

Eggs seemed like good way to celebrate the start of spring, as they are often seen as symbols of fertility and new life. So it was scrambled eggs for breakfast, a good change from our usual oatmeal, and biscuits from a new recipe given to us by friends, both cooked by our wood cook stove. After a leisurely breakfast, we contemplated the weather. The day had started out misty, but dry, and gradually patches of blue appeared in the sky, the first we have seen in many days. Spring had definitely decided to give us a sneak preview.

We headed out for a walk along the beach. Flocks of cormorants, widgeons, and Canadian geese kept us company along the shore. They have become accustomed to our presence, and although they will fly off a short ways when we come near, the quickly return. We walked around the old homestead sites, looking for the first signs of spring. It is still quite cool in the woods, but the buds are nearly bursting on many of the trees. Our honeysuckle has some tentative new leaves, and the Saskatoon and lilac buds have almost burst open. The male alders are showy in their red catkins, getting ready to burst open and release clouds of pollen when the weather gets warmer. The step moss (Hylocomium splendens) was bright green and deep and soft underfoot. However, it was still too early for snowdrops. I’m not sure there are any out here, although I know there will be daffodils later in the spring. Many old homestead sites along the coast can be identified by fields of daffodils even after all signs of the buildings are gone.

We headed home for lunch to warm the chill out of our bones over a pot of homemade soup that I had left simmering on the wood stove. I’m finally starting to get the hang of wood stoves – they are great for slow cooking foods when you are using them as a heat source as well.

Our cabin has been coming along nicely. We’ve gotten all the interior pine siding up in the main cabin, and the floor (a tough vinyl plank material with a nice cherry-wood look) installed in the loft. We also finally have our loft stairs in place – it’s nice not to have to use a rickety old ladder, especially for my nocturnal peregrinations. Yesterday, we put in the bathroom floor – also vinyl plank, but with a maple design rather than cherry. We have decided we really want to get our shower working! Our tub is a big rectangular black watering trough, big enough to lay down in if you want. Today we got the tub plumbed and the shower curtains installed. We still don’t have running water, and so we will be heating the water on the wood stove and filling a shower bag up with it, but this is still a very great improvement from sponge baths out of an ice cream pail! This has been an absolutely wonderful birthday gift!