Blooming in Winter

We have certainly experienced such mild winters as this one (so far) since we moved to West Cavan seventeen years ago. I do remember a Christmas Eve dressed in just a light pant suit with a scarf at my throat, not needing gloves. But it is also very dry, instead of wet, too. And I like to record these observations, that some Januarys are full of frost, ice and snow. Others see the snowdrops six weeks early in raised beds and other bulbs popping up.

Blooming in Winter

The azalea in bud on Stephen's Day
bloomed one single blossom the day she died.

I remember a January day
nearly forty years gone, seeing roses
in Victoria Park, Hackney, London,

blooming despite what felt like bitter
damp and cold, bone soaking and searing all
simultaneously, a mystical

wonder, or wonder of some sort, some kind.
There in a two-faced month of dark and cold
that bulbs would peep out and there are some bold

enough to bloom early, pioneer plants
at the vanguard, with a differant
narrative. They wear lanyards spelling hope.

Nothing can be completely done or dead.
Some bloom early and others late, wither,
die back, return. We each find our own thread.

See the length stretch out. Await the scissors
or harvest scythe. The cut. The gathered fruit.
The miracle there will be blooms again.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image: Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash

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Winter Solstice

winter solstice moon

Winter Solstice arrived at bedtime last night. But at suppertime I moved the Sunwheel wreath to the dining table and lit the central candle. We had poppy seed cake for dessert, a favourite of my guests, but also to mark the 102nd birthday of my Dad, long though he has lived with the ancestors. Our celebrations are officially started.

I am writing the Poetry Daily before the first glimmerings of daylight. Solstices are liminal times and it felt right to go to my doorway first thing (well, after feeding the cats and brewing my cup of tea) and welcome Winter. ‘Tis the season to be cordial, after all. We have a very plump, almost full moon this year for winter solstice, too!

Winter Solstice

I woke. Bid winter welcome
in the darkness
before the returning
of the day's light.

Venus was large and bright
breaching the dark,
turning sky indigo
with Her own light.

I stood in the doorway
in the starry
almost day. Even at the
darkest times, look!
The full moon and Venus
offer us light.

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith
 


In Midwinter Tide

At Midwinter Tide

Christmas time can be very jolly. We meet, greet, salute and congregate. But not everyone. We consider the homeless, but there is also a legion of the lonely who are feeling excluded from all this collective jollity. This is a time of year when outsiders can really feel left out in the cold. Just like that wistful feral cat back in 2016, who finally came in from the cold last Christmas and became a fully fledged insider  and household member this year. Today’s Poetry Daily considers those who may not be feeling it this Christmas tide.

The cat who came in from the cold
Looking inside from the outside at Xmas
At Midwinter Tide

To those who have loved
and lost
whether by
omission or commission
and for whom
loneliness has become
like a prison
a life sentence
in solitary confinement

To those who have loved
and lost
those dear ones
those who once
lifted your heart
raised your pulse
bathed you in the warmth
of their company

At midwinter tide
all that loving and giving
outside
is forced labour
a convict's pick axe
breaking stone to no purpose
but to underline
how much it feels
alone
inside

At midwinter tide
there is the sun
its piercing ray
into a stone made box
and out from the dark
dawn breaks
and wholly illuminates
to ancestral sighes
for the year's tide
has turned

We are all born
with such breathless hope
followed by our cry

The sun does this turn
year upon year
all alone
except for  those of us
who witness it
along with our thoughts
of those loved and lost
in yesteryear
all of of us
this company
of beloved ones

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


Featured image is of Newgrange illuminated at Winter Solstice found on Pinterest  and linked to https://binged.it/2rJ4TBW

The Cailleach in Her Winter Cave

cailleach in cave

In Irish and Scottish lore, the Cailleach (sounds a bit like Cal-yuk) is Mother Winter. In some myth she is credited with creating this known part of the world by emptying her apron of stones to build these island kingdoms. She is the crone, the aging year. In springtime there is a stand off with the maiden at Imbolc and the struggle between the old and the new life is played out until the vernal equinox, when the maiden clearly ought to be the victor.

This primordial crone has echoes in other cultures goddess myths. I see her in a keening Demeter bereft of her daughter. I see her in Hecate who has the wisdom to help lead the world back to some kind of equilibrium with Persephone restored and the earth renewed and fruitful. Those who have never known food shortages, especially over winter, can barely imagine the desperation that our ancestors must have felt as they implored the earth to provide sustenance and succour. Our Midwinter feasts are based on using up perishable foodstuffs; and then comes time for preserving energy until the new planting season arrives. That’s when our ancestors did take a cue from bears and hibernate to conserve energy and food.

Today’s image is a photo I took when visiting Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire in 2016. Mother Shipton, with her living in the king’s woodland and this cave, with her prophecying, is a more modern embodiment of the crone or cailleach energy. She is a wise woman, as well as the cunning woman. And she is old, old, old.


The Cailleach in Her Cave
 
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach sits and croons.
She keeps with her a dog
whose coat is black at pitch.
 
She keeps the dog to have
company. But she has
with her a silver wolf
to keep strangers at bay.
 
Deep in her winter cave
the crone has her own light.
It is not a lantern.
Her right palm is alight.
 
She tosses that fire
like she would her dog’s ball.
She plays with it and it’s
not for warmth or cooking pot.
 
She has other needs. Look!
She watches it play out
bouncing on the walls like
a metronome for tunes.
 
She croons to the shadows.
She croons to winter cold.
She croons to her wolf pal.
She croons to her black dog.
 
She holds a tinderbox
in her other palm. It will
never scorch or cinder burn.
She keeps the need fire.
 
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach plays the light
and no matter how small
it shines on winter nights.
 
Copyright© Bee Smith 2018


Bear in Winter

bear in winter

Winter arrived yesterday with a hard frost and black ice on our lane that did not melt off until late morning. We had errands to run.Our industry was rewarded on the drive back home with the most exquisite exhibition of low lying mist under the karst backdrop of Boleybrack. We stopped for me to take a snap on my phone, one of which is today’s featured photo. Sadly, I couldn’t get an angle that would have shown off the full profile of the sphinx-like mountain that broodingly guards over the region where the Shannon River starts its journey to the sea. It really does look like an Anubis and locals refer to it  by nicknames like  The Dog Mountain, or just The Big Dog. Such are the marvels of this internationally designated region. We live in a Geopark community and we certainly live with a bounty of natural and built heritage and its abundant beauty.

West Cavan Cattle,  curious and  very keen for news

So my poetry daily harkens back to that trip along the R207 as we approached Dowra. I was delayed by a few chatty cows who were eager for a photo call. I realise that a herd of differant species are cramming into both the post and the poem, but that’s my life out here living in a geopark.


Bear in Winter

Wait patiently in thedark, Rumi has said.
Even in the winter dawn’s half-light.
The sun’s dimmer switch is set just on glow.
It watches us from behind net curtains,
filtering light through banks of mistiness,
making the world seem muffled in whiteness.
The Anubis in our local mountain
snoozes, content under a month’s long frost
and more, the ice and snow an enfeebled
sun cannot melt down with its golden horde.
We settle under theheft of layers-
Sweaters, fleeces, duvets and blankets.
The whole weight of this passing year bears down.
It is time to lay it down. And, for us,
to curl up and recline, to rest and sleep,
to behave like our childhood’s cuddly toy.
To make like the bears for our souls to keep.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018
dog mountain
Playbank, aka the  Dog Mountain


Winter

Winter

Once upon a time I was very effective at multi-tasking. We women joke about how it is our default setting. But as I age, I just find I have less talent for it. Today is a case in point. I overslept, which meant I missed my dawn writing practice. Which in turn made me feel out of joint.  Also under-cafeinated. I needed to make a 9 am appointment and then a 10:30 appointment and then a 12:30 pick up. Also, make it to the post office before 1pm, when it closes for lunch. I skidded in at 12:54 and had it all wrapped up by 1pm.

By which time I felt ready for a lie down! Living in the country we tend to cluster our daily ‘missions’ to make sure that we minimise our auto emissions. Also, to keep the auto fuel bill reasonable. Where we live it is eight miles to the doctor’s surgery, and twenty miles to anywhere for a ‘big shop’ – clothing stores, shoe shops, the wool shop, plant pots and anything that is not obtainable is our, admittedly very good, local Spar shop in the village. So this multi-tasking on daily missions sometimes feels like the logistics for military maneuvers.  I used to be able to do it without thinking twice. Now I  think twice before launching myself into any day.

It’s tiring. And I have been feeling my age lately. It has been pointed out to me (by someone who is only three days younger than me) that this is now the wintertime of our lives. Which is a thought to conjure and ponder.

Today’s poetry daily includes a featured picture of my very favourite tree in all the world. Because sometimes your favourite tree needs to be celebrated.

In the Winter of a Lifetime

I want a den down a hole
like the one that is the portal
at  the base of the beech tree.

I'll use sphagnum for a cushion
that is plumped up ten inches thick.
a bolster made of lichen.

I'll live like any cunning woman.
I'll spin thread from scraps in the hedge.
Knit a shawl of angel's hair.

I'll commune with the dark night-
the owl, cat and hare. I will wane
like Mother Moon.  Until comes

the day of no rising dawn.
The owl will announce my demise.
The beech tree will close its door.

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith
















Fox and Mother Winter

We had our first flurries of snow this morning just after dawn. And it made me feel happy. Just as I realised that making sure that I write a poem a day – good, bad, indifferant – that I keep at the poetry practice – also makes me deeply happy. It has become the stake in the ground that is keeping me centred in this Crazy Train world, where who knows what will happen where and to whom.

I woke up just as dawn was breaking, which is a rare occasion for me.  And I had more leisure to doodle on the page. I posted a haiku on Facebook for my friends. And then two poems emerged, which I will share. Neither are profound, but they do act as a poetry journal entry for what is happening in my world. Which is real to me, woo woo and all. I have kept at a daily entry now for six weeks and this just feels so right. It gives me joy.

 

Fox At Twilight

 

At twilight as we drove along our road

we saw it stop, stilling on the lane’s verge –

tail erect, tip a snowball or pompom,

head turned towards us, eyes glittering.

Then, a graceful duck and dive into hedge.

It was an instant’s benediction.

Be aware. Stay wise. And wild, quick and free.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Mother Winter

 

Crept over our threshold

trailing pink cloud

and the shadow of ghostly moonset.

She arrived with a flurry of crystal pebbles

that glimmered on my dog’s coat,

making it into an old girl’s Princess cloak.

It’s official when you send up smoke signals

from the chimney with a morning fire.

With ceremony, the purple gloves,

the hand-knitted cowl come out from

their special seasonal drawer full of

ritual winter gear.  Even the hot water bottles

have knitted sweaters to keep us all cozy.

The light shall fail early now,

the chill beginning to seep in at three.

Mother Winter breathed it ice cold

at dawn with that ghostly white moon set.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Featured image:

Photo by Nam Hoang on Unsplash