Imbolc, when the earth awakes again


I can tell it’s a cold morning before I have even left the cosy warmth of the duvet. Yet, it’s just gone 7.30am and light is already peering through the curtains. Days are getting noticeably longer now and this puts a spring in my step. I come downstairs to light the fire and to turn the calendar to a new page. Today is the 1st of February and the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the half way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, a celebration of the re-awakening of the earth. Winter is receding and there are signs that Spring is on its way.

At Imbolc, change is in the air as we move to the last segment of the Winter season on the Wheel of the Year. The time has now come to begin to prepare for the growth, new life and new beginnings that will come with Spring. Outside, the first hints that nature is stirring itself out of its Winter sleep are there for us to notice, however small and subtle and despite the cold and snow. The snowdrops are beginning to bloom and daffodils and crocuses are poking through the ground, all emerging triumphant from the grip of Winter full of hope and promise. I have also noticed this past week that birds are becoming more active and vocal; I have spotted blue tits beginning to survey for nest sites, peering into bird boxes in anticipation of the breeding season, which prompted me to go round our land and clear all our bird boxes of last year’s nesting materials and check them for damage or Winter residents not of the feathery kind! I have heard the first song of the blackbird at dusk. In the hedgerow, hazel catkins are growing and lengthening and buds are swelling. Our hens are responding to the quickening of nature and the approaching Spring too: more eggs in our basket and one broody hen! All these early Spring gifts are such a delight to notice, a reward for paying attention, looking deeper and attuning to the rhythms of nature. Welcoming them recharges my soul with much needed encouragement, hope and promise and leaves me feeling energised and ready to gradually unfurl and turn my attention outward.

Last week, I tidied up the small potting shed in preparation for the start of the growing season. That space is where the sowing for the new season begins, before I move to the more spacious potting area in the polytunnel as the gardening season progresses and growing seedlings need more space. The small potting shed is close to the house and especially the sunroom, which transforms into a plant nursery with windowsills filled with propagators and seedling trays between February and June, so it’s handy. My new growing calendar is up on the wall to guide and prompt me and I will sow the first seeds in two weeks, starting with the chillis, peppers and aubergines which need a long growing season. Peter is building me an outdoor potting area in the field which we are gradually developing into a functional area with the large polytunnel, greenhouse, compost bays and perennial beds. The wooden frame of this new, exciting space is now erected and the next stage is to add a roof and two or three sides. A project that began and gained momentum last Summer when Peter was on furlough but which has progressed slowly since Peter returned to work full-time in the Autumn, I am looking forward to it reaching completion soon.

Another plan dreamed up during the Winter that we are beginning to work to bring to fruition now is the creation of a rose garden outside the kitchen window to add colour and interest close to the house with ornamental beds. Further updates on this new addition will follow in a later blog post, when the time comes for the rose garden to be in the limelight.

The jobs that I will be doing in the garden this month to prepare it for Spring and the new growth will include pruning, cutting back, clearing away dead foliage and mulching. Similarly, as we ease ourselves out of Winter and into Spring, now is our last opportunity to let go of the old to make room for the new. Imbolc and the month of February offer us a last chance to take a look at ourselves and identify anything that may stop us from bringing our dreams and aspirations to fruition. Valuable questions to ask ourselves to help guide this inner process of clearing away and letting go are: what do I need to shed to enable and support new growth? What am I carrying from Winter that no longer serves me well? What from the past can I leave behind to welcome the future? What nurture and nourishment do I need to fully embrace new beginnings? The purpose of this cleansing (or Spring clean) is to leave us refreshed, renewed and ready for growth.

May the earth’s re-awakening bring you hope, inspiration, new energy and creativity to carry you into the new season of renewal and possibilities. Happy Imbolc!