We writers need all the signs of encouragement we can get, so today, I am happy to tell you, is the first day of Spring in the Celtic calendar. Today is Imbolc, Candlemass, The Feast of St Brigid, (or, for my US readers, Groundhog Day). But the name I like best for 2nd February is The Feast Of New Ewes' Milk. Humour me here, and try to imagine yourself back a thousand years, in those far off druidical days.
The time of midwinter solstice is long past, and the celebrations and feasting are a distant memory. Food is scarce, and the weather miserable. Your hut (if you have one) lets in the wind however you plug the cracks. The fire smokes, and every day you have to find fuel to keep it going or you will die. But there is hope. Today there are signs of spring. The ewes are huddling and baaing, their breath a plume of smoky noise in the freezing air. Suddenly there is a new note amongst them, a high, plaintive mewling. The first lamb is here, and tonight there will be new milk to drink, rich and creamy and full of life.
Most of us, who live in warm and comfortable houses, many in urban settings, are blind to the small signs which mark the turning of the seasons. But to our ancestors, the rhythms of birth and death, new buds and falling leaves, planting and harvest, were the things that framed their lives. I lived in the town for a while, but I am a country girl by blood and breeding and inclination, and so today it pleases me that when I stand outside in the driving snow I can hear that plaintive sound coming from Farmer Haystack's barn over the way. The Feast of New Ewes' Milk is truly here--a time for me of new beginnings, growth, unfurling. And a perfect celebration for a writer in need of hope for the future.