Earth Festival: First Stirring/Imbolc/(Saint) Brigid’s Day/Candlemas
Thoughts on the Well Dressing | Awakening
Here we are still in winter but with our thoughts turned to the hopes of spring. As before and especially at Winter Solstice, this dressing is built upon the strength and ongoing growth of evergreens, long looked to as symbols of hope. Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) with its sweet pineapple scent; larch (Larix) with its beautiful silver-green needles; laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) with its emergent flower buds, pruned gently to keep your way clear; and Sarcococca confusa with its heady fragrance which enlivens so many corners of the garden on these grey days.
Interwoven are buds and flowers that hold the signs of spring. Kilmarnock willow (Salix caprea), shaking out its skirts after its winter prune, gifts us these soft buds. Willow can symbolise the confidence to move forward from inner knowledge, perhaps inspired by our time of winter rest, whilst hazel (Corylus avellana) may help us to meditate and connect to our essential being. So too might rowan (Sorbus), a lichen covered twig here noting interconnectedness. Its buds, along with sprigs of silver birch (Betula pendula), are trees of the turning year and can represent rebirth and new beginnings.
The hazel’s pendulous catkins, the male flowers, nod to the returning fertility of the land; as well as to lambs’ tails and the long association of sheep with this festival. Hellebores (orientalis and argutifolius) share flowers both delicate and robust, flowering even in winter snow. Similarly, and central to these celebrations, are snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), sometimes known as “Candlemas bells” bringing us joy in the darkness and light with the thought of longer days.
Here we are looking towards spring but still in winter. These difficult days require our continued patience and care for ourselves and with each other. I read recently about a NHS intensive care physiotherapist who helps patients recovering from Covid with their rehab. She then goes home to be with and take care of her young family. On the train home, she often cries – in frustration and relief, in sadness for patients lost and joy for those going home. If you will allow, this Well dressing is dedicated to those who carry us as we put ourselves back together; and hoped to hold you all in our exchange of love and support.
With love, blessings and gratitude,