According to Irish tradition the first of Feburary aka Imbolc (Imbolg) marks the beginning of spring. This morning there was blue sky and sunshine and an collection of spring flowers on offer in the local shops. And while this morning I got up to celebrate my cultural heritage and the rejuvenating energy of believing it is spring, I also know we are a good twenty days or more away from soil temperatures conducive to planting and gardening proper.
So while today I will potter and weed a bit and wish I wore gloves under my gloves, I know we are getting into a more positive place – longer, warmer days and productive early starts. And as to the setbacks – they will come – but they won’t seem so bad when you can munch an apple or a strawberry you have grown while viewing your domain from vantage of your garden seat. Being true to your self overrides people and circumstance less true to you.
It is not always easy to jump into spring and get the zest for life, sometimes the bitter taste in the mouth of past experiences or on-going dramas can undermine enthusiasm. The trick is not to expect that spring will instantly eradicate winter. Spring is the germination, the bud emerging. Patience is required but flourishing is on its way. I live by the saying ‘god bless the intent’ and I am grateful to every signpost.
There is also the old Irish proverb Is annamh earrach gan fuacht – Seldom is spring without cold. It speaks of taking the good with the bad – equal measure and in your stride. It is about setting your expectations. A bit of winter can linger into spring. Enjoy the new leaves emerging, enjoy the birdsong, feel the warmth of the sun on your face but don’t sell your scarf and gloves just yet.
In a way this one also reminds us that you cannot have good without bad, just as you cannot have day without night, cold without hot, or joy without pain – they are not a consequence of each other but the frame of each other- we understand hot by knowing cold, we know daylight by its difference to night-time and we appreciate joy all the more for having had the experience of pain or sorrow.
The proverb reminds me of Zen sayings. My favourite Zen saying being “Before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” Enlightened or not you still need to fend for yourself, you will still need firewood and water to drink and bathe with. The spring still has cold in it – it’s no time to slacken off.
Enlightenment does not stop life and life’s necessities in their tracks. Life goes on, enlightened or not. The transformation is in your perception of the world and your expansion of consciousness, not a new realm where the mundane realities no longer apply. We still have to chop wood, weed the garden, brush our teeth.
Life goes on. We sleep and we wake – we are alive in both states – hearts beat, blood flows, lungs breathe – life is intact. Life is as intact in sorrow as it is in joy – we need not fear the cold day in spring. And while you are mindful of each step on the journey, do not be daunted or caught off guard by a cold day in spring – a minor setback – no panic if the path is frozen for a time. Chop some wood. Warm your toes.