Most usually people talk about the dawn chorus at midsummer – that’s when events to experience it seem to be organised. It is the case that the midsummer dawn chorus is the longest and loudest. However, you also need to be awake by four in the morning here in the UK, and that’s not easy, nor is it practical for some of us.
There is always a dawn chorus. In winter it’s brief, but even so I usually hear something. However, now in early spring is a great time for encountering and appreciating dawn bird song. Firstly it’s often warm enough to have the windows open a bit at night. If there are any trees in your vicinity, there’s a fair chance of birdsong, and of being able to lie in bed and hear it. Otherwise, it means being out at about six am, which is a good deal more feasible.
Here in the UK, the first frosts can turn up any time in the autumn, but represent a significant shift towards the winter. In terms of being something to celebrate, I admit to mixed feelings. The coming of the frost is an important part of the wheel of the year, but it means moving into cold and hardship.
Frost is of course beautiful. It sparkles on grasses, leaves and spiderwebs, creating delicate beauty and catching the first light of the day. Today, with the first frost in my little corner of the world, the fields were iced at first light, giving them a sheen of mystery and otherworldliness.
One of the joys of autumn is the finding of webs, dew decked and glinting in the early morning light.
Spider webs are amazing constructions, and the whole spidering business is fascinating – all spiders produce 8 or more kinds of thread, and they only don’t get caught in their own webs because they remember where to stand.
Imbolc, when the little snowdrops emerge from the earth, the first flowers, and the first sign that spring is on the way. Except if you’re dealing with floodwater just now, you probably won’t see them because they will be submerged. If you are a bit further north than I am, there will be no sign yet. People in colder climates can’t expect flowers at this time of year – my other half, who originated in Maine, continues to be perplexed by anything trying to grow at this time. Not everywhere has snowdrops, and not everywhere has winter.
There are no doubt a lot of Pagans out there who feel they should be celebrating Imbolc this weekend, because it’s the ancient Celtic festival marking the first signs of spring, and it’s here. Some will no doubt go out with scripts that talk of things which simply are not happening in their lives. I’ve done that myself. I stood in a hailstorm one year, trying to picture the gentle, generous spring maiden and her magical wild flowers, whilst getting cold, wet, miserable and confused. It was one of those key moments in my journey towards rejecting a dogmatic approach to dates and festivals.
The Harvest moon...she was quite marvelous this month. And now we move toward a dark moon where she invites the depths of knowledge to mingle and play in the soil beneath our feet.
Are you feeling the palpable richness of this moment? The effervescent juiciness of the energies?I experience it as acceleration in my heart center and a Knowing in the gut. Indeed we sit within a time of sacred transition. A process of celebratory release this time of year so that the elasticity and resiliency of our very foundation may become more apparent.
A recent household occasion presented an opportunity to implement a natural solution instead of using a chemical-laden product. My daughter Emily is eleven-going-on-20 and upon her happy discovery of my homemade concoction, she sat quietly for a while and then asked, “If you were a normal mom, what would you have done instead?” Huh. If I were a “normal” mom, what would I have done? This question has sat within for a few weeks now and it has led to a good chuckle more than a few times. Emily and I did talk about her question at that moment because I was curious to know what she defined as being a “normal” mom compared to being a mom (perhaps me) who is “not normal”. It generated a lot of laughs between the two of us and offered up great time to connect deeply.
If I had been asked this as an ungrounded new mom years ago, my psyche easily could have taken a backseat on the train toward the villages of Panic and Self-Doubt. I suppose there have been conscious choices which have been made through the years to define myself in her mind as being somewhat “not normal” as she places that language in her mind. Upon inquiry I learned that she sees me laughing. A lot. Singing, playfulness, prayerfulness, and random dance moves are busted out at random times of the day, often early in the morning in the kitchen while I "should be" packing her lunch for school. Dress-up consists of wrapping ourselves with big swatches of colorful fabric and then often these pieces are brought outside on windy, sunny days to watch how they shape-shift in the light and air.
In your standard Pagan wheel of the year arrangement, harvest happens in the autumn. We tend to celebrate it at the autumn equinox, when many regular Pagan teachings encourage you to reflect on wider ideas of harvest in your own life. However, if you grow soft fruit or salad vegetables, the odds are that you’ve been harvesting since some time in June.