Greetings Further Shore Friends,
I hope everyone is finding ways to enjoy the winter season and there has been some time for inner contemplation and dreaming into this new year, 2024. In keeping with my appreciation of seasonal timings, today’s newsletter is dedicated to Imbolc, the cross-quarter point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. This is a Gaelic holiday that takes place on February 1st and 2nd. The pre-Christian, Celtic tradition of Imbolc was meant to honor the time when spring is waking up in the northern hemisphere. The days are a bit longer, the cold nights a bit shorter and it marks a time of contemplating what seeds to plant, and when. As you can see from the photo, in some locations, winter can be very present at this time of the year!
- Cross Quarter Lore: To begin this holiday, the ancient Celts would prepare their homes to honor the pagan goddess, Brigid, who is often depicted with a cauldron and fire. She offers warmth against winter’s chill alongside a spark of creativity needed to inspire spring seed planting. Whether the seeds are metaphorical (intentions, goals, ideas) or literal (flowers, herbs, food), now is the time to envision your garden! Brigid was said to oversee fertility, birth, and death. Her message is a reminder that as the season of winter is dying and fading away, spring is offering new life. She was credited with having been at the very first keening, a ritual wailing for the dead done by Irish and Scottish women.
- Honor the Day: To welcome Imbolc, celebrants might undertake spring cleaning, lighting candles, bonfires, or preparing special foods. Imbolc means “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk” and Brigid’s connection to fertility and mother’s milk are reflected in popular foods that are still a part of the Imbolc tradition today, most containing milk or dairy products and root vegetables. A delicious recipe for Vegan Colcannon substitutes unsweetened soy milk and vegan butter for the dairy products. This is a traditional Irish dish made with potatoes, green onion, and cabbage. Perfect and hearty for Imbolc.
- Other Celebrations: Over time, the Catholic church named February 2nd as a day to honor Saint Brigid, the patron saint of Irish nuns, newborns, dairy maids, and cattle. The Christian holiday, Candlemas is also celebrated on February 2nd in honor of Jesus being presented at the Temple of Jerusalem as the light of the people of Israel. Here in the USA, we celebrate Groundhog Day with Punxsutawney Phil, an adorable groundhog who is rousted from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob to predict springs arrival. The folks of Punxsutawney, PA take this day very seriously, with several events like Lunch with Phil, a Groundhog Ball, contest for Man and Woman of the Year, food, music, prognostications, and there’s merch. If you cannot go in person, there is always the movie, starring Bill Murray. It’s truly a reminder to live fully in each moment.
On the Blog: The Long Covid Series is intended to be both a memoir and an educational resource for the “living well” portion of our mission. Through this writing I hope to provide education about chronic illness that will, in turn, increase empathy and compassion for those living with chronic conditions. “W” is for Wisdom Walking is also ready to read as part of the ABC’s for Living Well.
Caregivers Note: Winter can represent a time when caregiving becomes more difficult and time consuming. When living in a colder climate, where ice and snow can make getting to appointments arduous, if not dangerous, more time is needed to prepare yourself and your care recipient for the journey. This may leave less time for a respite, or enjoyable activities. It’s a good idea to stock up on medications, food, and other supplies ahead of a late winter storm. While it may seem like winter will never end, all seasons eventually give way to the next. On Imbolc, try to carve out a bit of time to close your eyes, take that deep breath, relax, and imagine the daffodils poking up through spring snow. If you have a bit more time, grab your journal and record some thoughts about the “seeds” you intend to plant when spring comes calling.
Hospice Notes: If your loved one is in hospice care during these last weeks of winter, there are some simple things that can help to provide comfort:
- Keep the room and bedding fresh and clean with natural products and/or aromatherapy.
- Provide cuddly blankets, pillows, pajamas, slippers, and robe.
- Provide companionship by following the patient’s lead; do what they want to do! It might be sharing stories, memories, or photos. It might be simply sitting quietly together, holding hands while watching the late winter snow fall.
- Ask the hospice team to adjust the care plan if you notice the patient is suffering from physical or emotional pain.
Quote for Season: O. Wind. If winter comes, can spring be far behind? ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
May all beings be safe, well, happy, and content.