Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category


Yesterday was Imbolc, the day halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and officially the start of Spring on more seasonal, agrarian calendars, particularly those of my ancestors in the British Isles. In those more moderate climes, the snow drops are apt to be showing themselves and Imbolc brings with it a real promise of the unfurling once again of the fertile green cloak across the land. But, of course, in our Vermont climate, we are deeply ensconced in Winter still, and this day offers more of a symbolic glimpse towards the brightening and warming of these hills.

It’s been frigid here, 60 degrees below freezing within the past two weeks and then thawing and raining shortly after, only to freeze once again. And all the while it’s been mostly gray, clouding the spirits of most and obscuring the feeling of any sort of stirring or quickening of sap, seedling or inner inspiration, all of which are promised by Imbolc and its patron goddess, Brigid.

So, when I woke today to a blue sky and temperatures just at freezing, it seemed that perhaps Spring might come after all–that the thick, slow  ice flows of Winter might dislodge, that the light of the sun might be truly growing and kindling a small flame in the heart of the world.

As I padded downstairs, I was greeted immediately by our resident grouse outside my window, all puffed up to keep herself warm as she foraged for her daily ration of tree buds. I haven’t seen her in a couple of months, since the hard freeze, and I wondered where she’d dug her snow tunnel for safety and warmth. For a bit, she crouched under the hemlock outside the window and watched me, while I watched her, and then she scurried off. I decided she was giving me the “hard eye”–as my sweetie describes the look we give the cats when they’re misbehaving–admonishing me to get myself outside and into the woods.

So, I did. I found, of course, that there is much afoot, even under cover of snow and ice. I’m always in need of reminding that the cold and slow times are important preparation for the productivity and maturation of the Fire season. But, perhaps even more, I need a reminder that the simplicity and pared down nature of Winter makes space for a depth of reflection and quality of work that can’t be achieved at any other time. The modest, purposeful movements of the animals in search of food reminds me that only so much can be done in short days and only that which is necessary.

Simple realizations and small practices, like the tiny swollen tree buds, are the potent beginnings of the glories of Summer’s canopy, yes. But condensed inner and outer movements–such as dreaming and intention-setting, long naps and fire-tending–also hold their own value, solid ballast for the frenzied expansion and manifestation to come.

Here are a few of the images I collected today to remind myself of the need for “tending the buds”, treasuring the simple, the slow, the essential–my gifts from Winter.

the clear path


golden birch, a small flame in the forest


work around


sunlight capture




sturdy resolve





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Before we get into the season at Patera in earnest, my sweetheart and I took the opportunity to get away for a few days. This was called for, as I was in Hawaii less than a month ago, in perfect 80 degree weather for two weeks, only to return to rain and wind and gray skies. We had only a hint of crocus growth in our yard. I was having plant-withdrawal after the incredible verdancy of the big island’s non-stop flower show! So, since there wasn’t much yet to see here, and just a few early leaves in the medicine garden, we set off.

Hawaii's "wildflowers"

It was a brief jaunt South to Western Massachusetts, where we got to bask in the flush of Spring that they are already enjoying there. Actually, it was more like high Summer, with 95 degrees and serious need for sunscreen. We spent a day at Smith College’s conservatory and gardens, where I got to see some of my new semi-tropical friends (Monstera deliciosa, aka cutleaf philodendron, banana, many an orchid, and flowering citrus to knock your socks off).

semi-tropical house in Smith's conservatory

And, I got to swoon over the much-progressed flowering trees–the crab apples were already wafting their indescribable incense, leaving me craning my neck to find the source as we walked down every street. We are still a week or more away from such delights on my chilly, zone 4, ridge. We did return to a yard full of daffodils, though—a surprise after leaving them tightly wrapped in their buds. I had to make a big bouquet in the dark–even before getting all the luggage in. I’d purchased a sweet sea green pottery vase at a junk shop that was just begging to be filled…really, it was.

in the orchid house

I’ve been spending my spare time, as our own weather continues to warm, leafing through gardening books for inspiration as each day I stare down the large swath of black plastic that is the next bed to be built in our yard. The thing about gardening, as I’m realizing now that I own a home, is that it’s always happening in the future—a plan, a dream, a fantasy of how it will all one day be mesmerizingly, perfectly gorgeous. No matter how much is accomplished, always, there’s more and better to do. Of course, I also know that it will never be just as it looks in my mind’s eye, so I’m resolving this year to work on restraining my dreamer, just a little. I intend to enjoy each moment in the garden, just as it is now and keep the ghosts of flowering-crabs-future at bay.

serious rock garden swoon at Smith

After all, in both my home gardens and here, at Patera, I already have enormous beds with hundreds of plants awaiting their debut as the soil keeps warming. So, I’ll keep bringing my focus–and adoration—back to them. Weren’t they the object of my keen future desires just last Fall as I tucked them in with visions of their Spring emergence–clever color combination perfection and all that?

What do I do then, with my fidgety gardening self–with two weeks until our gardening apprentii arrive at Patera and only small leaves on most of my babies at home? Well, I’ve dug my gardener’s heart (and spade) firmly into right NOW—and yes it requires digging in! I’m working slowly around the perennials, cleaning up the grey fuzzy leaf-hats left on the lady’s mantle, trimming the rubbery leaves of overwintered yellow foxglove, clearing the dry maple litter from the tiny, crinkly, dark lemon balm leaves as they give up their sharp, lemon scent. I’m preening over the grape hyacinths  as they enlarge in their little bunches and take on their sweet-grape fragrance that pulls me to hands and knees daily. And yes, I’m thinking, just a little, about what delights I’ll eventually cook up with the nettles, who’ve sent up their tender shoots already (nettlekopita? nettle-potato soup w/chives? simple steamed nettle with balsamic vinegar and butter?). I figure that near-future planning is allowed in my be-here-now gardening resolution, right?

Yes, I’ll keep my mind on the present conundrums–how hard to prune the various Clematis species and whether the garden sages are worth saving this year after a hard die-back. Because, after all, no matter what the thermometer says on a given day, it’s not Summer just yet. In fact, there’s so much left of Spring still to savor. The ostrich fern fiddleheads–Vermont’s ubiquitous late Spring treat–are decidedly still tucked tightly into their spirals of papery fur. The tulips have barely begun to form buds. The peonies’ deep purple “hands” are still curled tightly against an errant chill. My wicked plots to kill my gout weed patch later this year are incomplete…oh, I mean…ahem…I have yet to enjoy the delights of each unfolding Spring moment quite as much as I’d like.

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