February Sunlight

Bright sun shining on snow with small dark tree on left side, shadows marking places where tracks were made.
Bright February sun shining on bright snow.

We are halfway to Spring! So many cultures celebrate this day, or this change of season. For just a few examples: Imbolc or Brigid’s Day for Celtic people, Apuknajit (the winter spirit) for Mi’kmaq people, Candlemas in Catholic liturgy, Groundhog Day in secular America. They hearken to the coming Spring, and offer courage for getting through the rest of the winter. Here at our home in Maine, I can feel the change in the quality and angle of the sunlight. My heart is lifted by its brightness.

We’ve recently had a triple set of snowstorms, so the ground is finally covered in snow after nothing much in December. It too adds to the brightness. I love how it also reveals the creatures who live here with us. I’ve seen deer tracks going through the orchard all the way back across the frozen pond and into the hedgerow. You can see their traces in the photo above. I was also delighted to find these distinct squirrel prints after a rain on top of the snow a week ago. Like little hands.

Squirrel prints on snow, on a gray day.
Squirrel prints

I’ve been continuing my winter project of sorting, organizing and winnowing old papers in the basement. I had started with my years in Boston 1986-1999, then moved backwards in time. I am now finished with the very earliest files-hurray! So then I moved forward from 1999. I’ve begun to sort through papers from my years on Cape Cod, 1999-2005. That has meant that I’ve also started to incorporate the winnowing of digital files on my laptop for the same years. Some of it is plodding work, comparing documents to put duplicates in the trash, renaming documents so they are easier to organize, stuff like that. But some of it includes moments of sweetness, like finding a letter from a young queer person whose life was helped along by a sermon I preached called “Believing in Fairies.” [A version of which found its way into my book, Finding Our Way Home, and was excerpted in the post The Mystery Seed.]

It does my heart good to think of those seeds of blessing planted in the hearts of people I met along the way. Sometimes we hear about it afterwards, and sometimes we may never know. When the interactions were not so blessed–since I had my share of conflict and trouble along the way–it does my heart good to shred the remnants of those interactions, and let go. Lighten the load.

Imbolc is a time for setting intentions, for shaping our hopes for the future. It is kind of like looking through seed catalogues imagining what we will plant when the next season turns. I’m not ready yet for seed catalogues and intentions. But it is good to remember that the sorting and winnowing of my past life will not go on forever. I don’t know what sort of seed I want to plant for the future. That is still a mystery to me. But I am good with a mystery seed.

I saw a funny story on Facebook about a child who thought that bird seed grew birds. They showed their parents the proof–they planted a big pile of bird seed outside, and the following day, there was a whole flock of birds gathered round the spot. Maybe that is what I will plant today–filling the bird feeder with seed so that they will have nourishment for the deep freeze we are expecting in a couple days. I understand that Mi’kmaq people put out food for Apuknajit so that the winter spirit will be remembered and be kind. Maybe that is part of feeding the birds too–to remember our fellow creatures during these cold winter times, so that all of us might make it through to the spring.

Small brown bird perched on a stick on green bird feeder, with snow on top of it.
Bird on feeder today.
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Duck, Duck, Goose!

We had a spring teaser day today, with temps in the upper 50s so Margy and I went to Kettle Cove to take in the sun, the breeze, and the sea. We got a special treat when we saw these lovely birds in the water and on the shore. At first I thought they were ducks, because they were that size, but they were also somehow similar to Canada Geese but not quite. When I got home I searched the internet until I found them. They are Brant Geese. The Maine coast is part of their migration route. Here are some of the ones we saw. Margy Dowzer and I shared the camera, so I am not positive which photos are hers and which are mine.

Brant goose swimming in the low tide shallows.
Seven brant geese at Kettle Cove
If you look closely here, the goose in the foreground has plastic netting on its lifted foot–it was limping and we wondered why so we moved closer to see what it was. It was using its beak to try to get the netting off. We had no way to help it, and then they all flew off. So sad. I hope it was able to get free.
Sunshine sparkles on the water as the goose swims calmly.