Midwinter Phantasm, or, Stopping by the Birdfeeder on a Snowy Evening

I enter my apartment, the first floor of a house, by the back door. Mainly because I recently misplaced my keys, but also because, it being dark these days when I return home, I like to look up at the trees silhouetted against the night sky from my back yard. Also, to check the bird feeders in the quince tree and see if I should refill them. Yesterday evening, as I crunched through the snow (not yet shoveled and covered with a sugary, glassy crust from recent sleetstorms), I searched for the moon... and did not see it. Obscured by an opaque, greyish cloud cover, I thought of the upcoming festival of Candlemas/Oimelc, which is a festival of Brigit, Celtic goddess of poetry, healing, smithcraft, fire and patroness of rituals or blessing and purification... Her garments are white, like gossamer, like winter cloud cover, and she wears a crown of candles to symbolize the returning sun, which cast a glow like oak embers, like the golden lamplight of neighboring windows which make the snow look now blue, now orange, now pale green... She presides over rites that remind us the light is returning... and with it, spring. She has in her basket all the wondrous gifts of the imminent season, tucked away in soft-spun lambswool, and will dole them out as the days grow warmer, longer, brighter...

Sap will course through the trees, incipient buds will tremble and burst forth into blossoms, leaves, fruits... lambs will be born, bleating and soon gamboling... the sharp-scented winter wind will give way to the warm, sensual, fragrant breezes of spring, blowing the smells of mud, trees, melting snow and the indescribable perfume of crocuses in bloom...

Thinking on all these wonders to come, wishing the moon was visible, but accepting that it was not, I was content for the moment to enjoy winter, and filled with wonder at the changing sky and landscapes of the season, and the quiet beauty Mother Nature gifts us with... especially the ever-changing moon... and then I thought on this poem by one of those whose muse must surely have been Brigit herself...

Lines Written in Dejection

When have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.
The holy centaurs of the hills are banished;
I have nothing but the harsh sun;
Heroic mother moon has vanished,
And now that I have come to fifty years
I must endure the timid sun.

William Butler Yeats

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