Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blessed Bride's Day

I noticed on several blogs recently (here is a collection) that there was an open poetry posting invitation for St. Brigid's day. (Reya started it!) While I wasn't (initially) energized enough to find some poetry to post, I did some reflection on the bus this morning about what this day could stand for, speculating on what it meant historically. When I got to my office and peeked at Wikipedia, I found I wasn't far off. I'll share my morning reflections and a couple of surprising points about the day. (Then I did dig up a poem from about this time of year several years ago.)

First, the picture above: it was taken - believe it or not - at *five* *o'clock* *in* *the* *afternoon*. Unthinkable, not too long ago, that there would still be sun visible as I trudged over the snow-covered walk bridge spanning the Mississippi River (that curves right behind my workplace building - one of the best views in town).

My reflection this morning on the bus was about how I was feeling a new stirring of energy, not just faith in the promise of new life that is the hallmark of the Solstice / Christmas, but a real stirring of the real thing - new energy, new ideas starting to stir, starting to spark. The new light is becoming strong enough to keep the cold spells shorter, and start melting the new snow pretty quickly. Yesterday, a light snow fell all through the afternoon into the late evening, accumulating a couple of inches of sparkles, which I waded through to the bus this morning. By this evening, it had started to melt, and lacked much of the fluffiness. (But it was still excellent for the folks down the nearby hill where there are miles of cross-country ski paths and a great big hill for sledding. You could hear the distant, happy cries from my corner.)

What Wikipedia told me was very consistent with my reflections: St. Brigid's Day, or Imbolc, is the mid-point between the Solstice and the Equinox. Christianized, it is Candlemas, which is consistent with the theme in earlier time of the stirring light. The name "Imbolc" has to do with the ewes getting ready to lamb - apparently they start lactating before giving birth. Brigid (before becoming a Christian nun and saint) was a goddess of healing, poetry, and - get this - smith craft. According to Wikipedia, celebrations included hearth fires and candles, "divination and watching for omens." Wikipedia suggested that our Groundhog's Day is an echo of ancient folktales of the hedgehog seeing its shadow, or the hag having a bright day to gather more firewood, determining that we will have more winter.

Well, as you can see by my afternoon photo, we had sunshine today, so I guess we're in it for a while longer yet. Even so, the returning light will make it easier to pick up my steps, focus my mind, sustain my attention, and feel less like I have a head full of Swiss cheese (with holes where my memory should be).

And now for some poetry after all - after (literally) dusting off a stack of little hard-bound record books I kept for that purpose some years back. Er - more than ten years back, I find to my surprise.

2/1 (some years back - and I typed this from the handwritten record of a remembered dream without re-reading it first)

Leaving the mother's house

The house of my childhood
and really, my house
that I live in now
is caving in.

Stuck by lightning!
or some natural
of disaster.

I can hear the beams crumble
off elsewhere in the house
this hallway seems solid
for now
my mother's room
an odd, unused door
an odd, unused closet
has a quick robe for me

to be expelled, willy nilly
out into the cold
from my mother's house
nothing but a robe!
I pause, though,
to rummage through her things.

The jewel-box on the dresser -
can't find it -
I take beads,
great-grandmother's handkerchiefs
I worry her heart
will be broken
to lose it all.

I pause to hustle
my friends away
from their card games
and Monopoly -
no time for leisure.

I am so hesitant to go,
then I reassure myself
we can come back later
when it's all over and done
and pick through the pieces

surely the jewels,
the small, precious memories
will still be there
for mining.
But this house
is no longer
a habitation
half-wrecked, crumbling
even if it should stand
we must pull it down
it's unstable.

And now, I wonder,
what this house is
what it means
that I have lived there
all along.

And now, I wonder
will the neighbors help me
in the night and cold
if I show up
in this ancient, musty bathrobe?
(My pockets stuffed
with my mother's keepsakes.)

How could I go on
working, living, making progress
with nothing to my name?

If I must leave
my mother's house
the house of the mother
the mothering house
the unchanging house

where I live as mothers do

how will I live?

how will I act,
if not as a mother
acting as all mothers act?

How will I work
if I live somewhere else -

Is mothering just a job
and not my dwelling place?

But there's no time
to preserve, linger,
wonder, second-guess -
shock! the building cracks
and pieces crash and fall
it's time to go now!

(illustration from Wikipedia on Imbolc - not labeled except Stonehenge, sunrise)


Laoch of Chicago said...

Evocative poem.

Thanks for sharing the St. Brigid's Day information. I had not heard any of that before.

In Illinois this year we have had an extreme paucity of sunlight this year that it has left me in a huge seasonal affective disorder head space. I hope the sun will reappear but I am resigned that it will not.

Leone said...

Hi Mary Ellen what a beautiful photo. Nature truly is a gift. I love your new puppy, he so adorable and looks like a real character. Brigid is my favourite Goddess/Saint, I intended lighting some candles tonight but got busy and now it after eleven and time to go to bed. It's nice to have to blogging again and thanks for stopping by my blog.

Morgaine said...

Thank you for sharing the poem. Just thanks, and be blessed.

Reya Mellicker said...

The poem is so powerful. Wow. Brought tears to my eyes. That connection between mother and daughter is fiercely tenacious, even in dreams.

Thank you for this!

grace soha said...

thank you--the imagery is so helpful in letting go of "roles" no longer authentic to who I am, as I transition into the later years of self. (I'm a reader of the poetry festival)
Now that I've visited, but I'll be back!

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Madame DeFarge said...

Lovely photo and good to see you blogging more these days too. Good poem too, especially about motherhood and being a daughter.