Yesterday I was nudged awake by the dogs before sunrise. I wanted to sleep in another hour or so (it was the first night above freezing in weeks and I didn't need to be setting alarms every hour to stoke the roaring stoves to defend the plumbing). But I remembered, in that hazy fog of waking up, that it was Imbolc and not yet sunrise. I shot out of bed and started preparing.
Imbolc, Feb 2nd, is the midpoint of winter. Also known as Candlemas, Imbolg, Midwinter, St. Brigit's Day, etc. It marks the very first hints of spring and is a celebration of making it as far as you have. Mile markers are important. Winter has been rough here, for a lot of reasons, but mostly adapting to being a farmer alone again. It's been sad and lonely, but never boring.
The work of keeping things going at the same quality and pace as it was being done with two people has been mentally and physically tough. There's not as much dusting going on. There's certainly a lot of spring cleanup to happen around where firewood and round bales were stored - but I was able to get through January and make both the giant butcher bill and the December mortgage payment and that was my biggest goal for winter. The hump to get over. I did it through a constant stream of taking on as much work as possible and working a lot more on art, soaps, and CSA shares. In the end I earned exactly what I needed. Onward to January Catch Up!
January had not one, but TWO burst pipes. I was able to repair one myself, the second required a plumber visit. For a while there were so many nights in a row I couldn't get more than 2-3 hours of sleep. It takes a lot out of you. Eating habits get horrible. All that is prioritized instead is the animals and the fires. But to have that month done with, that is a reason to CELEBRATE.
So I was up before the first light of dawn on Imbolc morning. I collected some supplies for a small ritual of gratitude. I took a handmade cup gifted to me by a friend, and some hand poured candles from another. I lit the space around the woodstove with candles and started a fire inside. As the first astounding rays of pink and orange came over the horizon I was floored a the beauty.
Not every sunrise is so beautiful, so dramatic, but there was a lot going on meteorologically. On this holiday it would be nearly 45 degrees! A farmer would be delivering hay for my stock, a huge sigh of relief as my stash grows smaller. Friends were coming over to harvest some small locusts trees near my pond for fence posts and to help me cut some more firewood. I knew it would be a lovey and long day outside moving downed trees and such - but all of it was happening because of my community here.
I filled the cup with snow and set the candle in it. I covered it with a trio of sprinkled dry herbs. Lavender, chamomile, and lemon verbena from the garden. All the light, all the plants, the weather, the sunrise - it came together and I lit my candle and held it up to toast the sun like I was holding a mug of ale. I spent some time being simply happy. Happy to have this farm after ten years of self employment. Happy to have this community of friends and makers and farmers and readers. Happy to have made it through the harshness of January and grateful for this warm day.
Spring is still a long way off. But compared to where I was six weeks ago, things are better. My heart is lighter. My community is strong. I've gotten through some really tough shit. I am grateful.
And now to plan chicks, and gardens, and piglets!