Mabon Thoughts

Blue sky peeking between the edges of the off-white cloud cover reveals their feathery edges, recognizable to Northerners as those that provide the first winter’s snow. The temperature has dropped overnight, welcoming the Autumnal Equinox with near zero celsius cool and fading sunshine. The rich green grass of summer now complimented by the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of changing leaves, nature’s flaming crowns overseeing the last warmth as the last of the growing season is ushered out and the Wheel of the year turns again . . .

I saw the moon last night, just out of her fullness and veiled by the lowering clouds. The chill has already been carried down by the north winds for weeks, but summer has lingered, kissing bared arms with tender warmth even while being pulled away. I wonder if any of the tomatoes which grew unexpectedly in my garden this year have survived the first killing frosts. My back lawn has been carpeted in a scattering of yellowed leaves, and overhead, I’ve seen great flocks of Canadian geese spread in their vee-shape as they escape the approaching cold for the lush feeding grounds of the south.

Of course we become pensive at this time of year. Playtime is over, at least for a little while. An elusive thought finally articulated itself, just this morning, as I was contemplating one last grass-cutting: that summer is not the state of being in this part of the world. It’s winter. This land exists for the cold. Summer is only a brief respite from the long periods of stillness, piling drifts, howling winds, and freezing cold — it comes to allow the living things to prepare themselves for long sleep under white, fluffy blankets and deep dark of midwinter months.

But as much as hunkering down, building our dens, finding our thick woollen sweaters and mitts can bring us sadness, there is an excitement in the undercurrent. The last harvests are being gathered, and we can celebrate everything we’ve accomplished under the sun. To the ancients, this time represented the end of the old year approaching. There are festivals to prepare for and enjoy, renewing ties of friendship and kin, as our circle of activity begins to draw itself closer to the warmth of home.

However you spend this weekend — putting your garden to bed, setting up car shelters, taking down your summer décor — stop for a moment in the waning sun and close your eyes. The pulse of the earth is there, in your blood. It’s in the scent of the wind, fresh with the melted morning frost and aged leaves. It’s in the taste of your food, made more deep and savoury with fall’s appetite. It’s in the rosy cheeks of your son as he rides his bike stubbornly through the cold, not yet ready to put it away, and the pout of your daughter who is told to put her shorts away for another year. Talk to your family and friends about your plans for Thanksgiving, and enjoy the coziness of your socks.

Happy Mabon!

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Snow falling on Ostara

The equinox is a powerful day, whether it’s observed through the lens of spirituality or as a layperson. The arrival of spring, even if it’s only in the calendar sense, is welcomed by most, especially after a long and challenging winter.

In my part of the world, we still have a lot of snow. (I think I’ve been talking about that a great deal lately…we’re in the middle of the fifth month of blank landscape and cold weather.) And I know that further to the south, recent storms have dumped more white stuff than people expected or wanted. Not an auspicious start to the season of warmth and growth.

But this morning I heard the birds calling through the flurries. And the roads were clearing again, bit by bit. The air is softer on exposed skin, and the winds are less chilling. Winter may be fighting back, but it is losing once again.

I wanted to celebrate Ostara with a clean house, planting seeds in preparation for gardening, meditating, and painting eggs. I will admit a twinge of envy for those who are able to hold ritual festivities outdoors, lighting fires and scenting the freshness of rich earth. But I’ve been reading The Secret Garden with my daughter, and because it’s been years, I’d forgotten how much that book is about the spring — its descriptions of the thawing of the earth and reviving of life are vivid, beautiful, and inspiring. Sharing this story, little by little, in the weeks before and after Ostara is a ritual in itself. I can picture reading this story with my daughter every spring, in honour of new beginnings and fresh starts.

However you look at the first day of spring, wherever you are, I hope that you are feeling the change of the season with all of your being.

Three steps forward, one step back…and Ostara around the corner!

I promised an update! Here’s how my break has been going so far:

-Haven’t had daily walks — I blame the weather. Yeah, it’s a cheap excuse, but it’s snowing again, third day in a row.

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

I did manage to take the kids to the pool but it wasn’t great fun once my daughter started crying because she missed her grandmother. (Hope my parents are enjoying their cruise! According to their itinerary, they should be in Aruba right about now…)

-Have improved my egg boiling skills, thanks to advice from Tara Fox Hall! Now they are both edible AND tasty!

-Have made cupcakes with my lovely daughter, and both children had fun decorating them.

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day -- perfect for cupcakes!

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day — perfect for cupcakes!

(I think I may have eaten the bulk of them… *bites lip)

-Have cleaned my living room, my dining table is visible at last, and while I haven’t gotten to folding my laundry yet, it’s almost all clean.

The trouble I am having is with maintenance — keeping up with the order and organization once it’s all done. My daughter can destroy a room in 10 minutes or less. But we’re all improving on working together to clean and keep things clean, so that’s something.

It’s occurred to me, too, that Ostara is getting closer and I’ve not made any plans for celebrating it. I find it somewhat ironic to mark the equinox with springtime decorations because we’re still locked deeply in winter’s grip. That lovely warming we had last week is completely gone.

My children haven’t yet known what it’s like to hunt for Easter eggs in green grass and flower gardens, like they’ve seen on TV. They’re the opposite of children who’ve never seen real snow at Christmas. So my solution, in the past, has been to lay out trays of soil and grass seed on shelves by the window around Ostara, as well as planting potted flowers indoors and starting my seeds for outdoor planting later on in the spring. It’s actually quite lovely to hunt for eggs around an indoor garden. And since I’m getting back into boiled eggs, this year I can plan for some decorating fun in the coming weeks. Maybe we’ll focus on egg dying and colouring on Ostara, as a fun family activity. One year, I cut out a tree using brown packaging paper and taped it to the window, so we could hang little decorated paper eggs from it. I probably should have taken a picture of it…

But that was before we had our lovely pooch who likes to stand at the window when we’re not home…

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

If we tried the same decorating now, it would get wrecked in a day.

I would definitely like to start adding springtime decorations to the rest of the house, once I get my long list of chores caught up. If the house can stay clean, that is. I don’t think I used any of my Easter things last year. Maybe even bring in a likely branch to make an Ostara tree in a pot.

Reminds me also that Beltane is six weeks away. Typically, we still have snow on the ground by then, although the temperature will be much warmer. Ah, the challenges of being Pagan in the north…

So, my goals for this evening therefore include:
-finish cleaning off the dining table
-wash the floors
-sort the laundry to assist my children in folding and putting away their stuff
-editing at least two chapters of my novel, Wind and Shadow (come on, April!)
-marking journals for my Drama class

Feels like a roulette wheel is spinning with my choices marked on it. What will I accomplish? Stay tuned!

And… Enjoy some cupcakes!

Decorated by my 12 year old -- tasty good!

Decorated by my 12 year old — tasty good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old -- tooth-achingly good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old — tooth-achingly good!