To be frank, despite the post title, I don’t think I’ve seen many signs of spring yet this year. But I did open the kitchen door wide on Friday morning to a bright early morning and think perhaps the air smelt fresher and milder. Then, of course, there was cold rain later on and yesterday brought sleet, although not the heavy snow that had been forecast.
Of course spring, like most of the seasons, is a wonderfully confusing concept: when does it actually begin?
You can go with the astronomical date – the vernal equinox – which will be on March 20th, or the meteorological date, which is March 1st. My main problem with either of these is that, until spring arrives, we are presumably still in winter. And, while February can be a very harsh month, it isn’t always. There are plenty of years when gardens and embankments are bustling with bright daffodils long before they’re needed to celebrate St David’s Day on March 1st. And it certainly seems hard to think of late March as wintertime.
I think I’d rather judge the changing seasons by the actual weather and which plants are in flower. Although that does mean that spring comes to different parts of Britain at different times, usually starting in the south west and gradually moving north over a period of days or weeks.
Perhaps, though, there are good reasons to think of the start of February as the start of spring.
I’ve pretty much always known that Candlemas fell on February 2nd, but it wasn’t until I started writing on the Modern Pagan Prayers project that I became aware of Imbolc, the Pagan celebration that falls at the same time. As I understand it, Imbolc is a time to celebrate the winter coming to an end and spring beginning. It’s a time to let go of the past and focus on the future, perhaps with a thorough spring clean of the physical space, a review of personal goals and a renewal of vows and commitments.
The following is an adaptation of a fragment I wrote many years ago on a bright January morning in Spain, when the frost was thick, but the almond trees were already in blossom; it seems to work for Imbolc. I know that winter isn’t over completely, but there’s a definite shift in attitude – that change in the air that I felt on Friday morning – and I can expect to see green through the frost underfoot.
Welcome to the Maiden
She walks through fields of silver.
Winter cracks under her feet
and the earth breathes
gossamer. In her wake,
the path is damp
Welcome to the Maiden