What a lovely day we’re experiencing today in Chicago. It’s a cross-quarter day – the halfway point between Solstice and Equinox. And while we’re in the grips of winter, albeit an unusually mild winter – today I’m all about celebrating the bright sunshine that has appeared as a most welcome guest. Sometimes winter sun can be a bit weak, as though even Dear Sol is not so sure he wants to head out of his cozy cave to make his appearance.
But show up he did for today’s celebrations. Cross-quarter days have as many different names and ways to celebrate as there are groups of people who honor and follow the seasonal wheel of the year. But many celebrate Imbolc, which is of Celtic origin. It’s named for the onset of ewe’s lactation as the lamb birthing season was beginning. This time is also associated with the goddess Brigid. Candlemas is a more Christianized iteration. And for those who experience snowy and cold climes, this has become a culturally popular day to haul out the sleeping groundhog and, based on whether he sees his shadow, decide whether winter will keep us in its firm grip or slink away early. But I’m pretty sure very few people realize they’re celebrating a cross-quarter day.
Of course the real celebration of this time is the remembering that the seasonal wheel IS turning – that beneath the perhaps frozen ground things are actually stirring. There are noticeable shifts in the light that make a big difference to the winter weary. And while some of us are still deep in our reflecting periods, the signals are now starting to be received that invite us to consider it’s time to stop the descent and start slowing moving into the ascending phase. Underground bulbs are awakening, some chemical magic telling them that soon it will be their time to pop up, perhaps poking their tender shoots through a covering of snow.
But not quite yet. There’s still time. This is the period of promise. The reminder. The invitation.
Today is a good day for candles. Try lighting them as a reminder and celebration of the ever-increasing light. It might be the perfect day to meditate with a candle flame as your focus. It’s a traditional day to bless your candles. I tend to “dress” and anoint my candles as I use them, but today is a day I always make sure to open my drawer filled with candles and express gratitude to them all, as I select a few that I’ll be burning in celebration. And today I’ll be rolling a couple of candles using sheets of beeswax. It’s been a while since I poured and scented my own candles, but that’s a lovely thing to do ritually today as well. I always encourage people to opt for beeswax or soy candles when possible, and if using scented candles to use those scented with essential oils. Paraffin wax candles are petroleum-based, which release unhealthy chemicals when burned, and of course petroleum is not a renewable resource.
I believe it’s always a good time to light candles. But especially now in these times that feel particularly full of shadow energy and challenges, the simple act of lighting a candle can not only add light, but also help remind me how important it is to keep my own heart lit. Today, as I lit my first candle I thought about something Rob Brezsny has said:
“We are subversive mystics stoking the cool blue fires of poetry and lobbying for the liberated imagination.”
I think that’s a most wonderful mission to undertake in these times and I’m all in. Today is the perfect day for imagining exactly the kind of world we want to be part of. As things continue to crumble and become unstable we need to be engaging our creative genius capacities and come up with new visions. Simply trying to return to what we once knew, yet was also always deeply flawed, is not the only option available to us in these times. We must also as Brezsny admonishes, be
“…dissident bodhisattvas rebelling against all those forces that feed fear and ignore love.”
Another one of February’s traditions that has me firmly in its grip is my continuing dedication to a steady outflow of love letters. I truly believe the world is a better place when we make a point of telling each other we love them, and every day in February I send out notes and cards and sometimes long chatty letters. I like doing my part keeping the post office busily engaged in the task of transporting love across the globe.
What about you? Are you celebrating this quarter-day? Use any excuse to light candles? A fan of love letters? Do tell – you know I love to hear.