Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spring is Springing

I have a hard time with the Fasting Moon. I know, I talk a good game, and I know all the reasons why the energies of deprivation and sacrifice match up with this time of the year. I re-read Waverly Fitzgerald’s Pagan Lent article every year, my copy of Earth Time, Moon Time is tattered through the Fasting Moon chapter and I even started reading Catholic family blogs this spring, but in my heart I just can’t seem to get into the spirit of Lent. I took to celebrating Advent like a duck to water, and most of the other seasonal celebrations also come naturally, but despite trying to celebrate Lent for over 5 years it has just never stuck. One blogger I read says she explains it to her family that they are saving up their alleluia’s for Easter. I don’t want to save anything up during this time of year… I want to celebrate the spring that is already here!

I think a big part of it is how mild our winters are in Portland and how early spring comes. It always seems like real signs of spring come right on the heels of February First. There’s hardly time to get over the trauma of January before spring is here for good. This year, in the weeks after February First I noticed the trees move from little buds right into leaves. I think spring is early this year but we already have daffodils. Lots of them! I almost think I missed crocuses all together. And the cherry blossoms. Oh, the cherry blossoms!

Portland is well known for its cherry blossoms. A main waterfront park is planted with cherry trees and most neighborhoods in town have tons of them. We don’t get much snow in the winter but in the spring the streets look like they’ve been snowed on with all the fallen petals. My parents have a cherry tree in their front yard that is pruned into a gorgeous umbrella shape and is the first thing you see when you pull up in their driveway.

I’ve decided to stop worrying about Lent. I’ll make an effort at Holy Week to honor the season of sacrifice. Until then, though, I’m putting flowers on my desk every day and singing hosannas to the heavens for the blossoms.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lovely Luz and Sweet Bridgit

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Luz who lived with her sickly mother in a small cabin near the woods. Her mother had been weak for a long time and Luz had to take care of herself and her mother. Luz cleaned the houses of other families in their village, collected firewood and tended a small flock of chickens and two pretty nanny goats in the yard behind the cabin, so there was always something to put on the table but never much extra.

In the autumn, as the leaves were falling and the days were getting shorter, Luz’s mother helped her light a candle in a little glass lantern. Her mother was able to come to the door and watch Luz as she paraded around the yard singing songs to the nanny goats and chickens. “Remember,” her mother said “as the light of the sun fades in the autumn, we can keep the light in our lantern through the winter.”

Photo by calynde

Winter was always hard for Luz and her mother. The days were cold and snowy but Luz needed to go out most days to collect more firewood. The nanny goats stopped giving milk and eventually even the chickens stopped laying eggs, but the cold left Luz and her mother hungry for those nourishing foods. There was one wonderful thing that happened in the winter, though. Every evening, after the wood had been stacked by the fireplace and the chickens had been shut in their coops, the goats had been given fresh hay and the dinner dishes washed and put away, Luz’s mother would tell her stories about the beautiful Goddess Brigit. Brigit was always good to the poor and people who were like her always had good things happen to them.

One day just before Christmas, Luz was out along the edge of the forest by her cabin collecting firewood. She had a good armload and was about to turn back seeing as it was getting dark when she saw a man huddled around a tiny campfire. Despite the cold air he was dressed in rags, working hard to warm his fingers which were turning blue. Luz remembered the story her mother told the night before where Brigit gave away a precious silver necklace to a poor woman in need. Brigit’s sisters were angry, but the next day they found a sliver necklace to replace the one given away. Well, Luz thought, whether she found another pile of wood or not, this man needs my firewood, as well as the hardboiled egg and small wedge of cheese my mother sent with me, more than I do.

“Here you go, sir.” Said Luz, setting her gifts down near him. “I don’t have much, but you need it more.”

“Thank you, child.” He said. “I am almost home, and your gifts and kindness will warm me until I get there. Bless you, child, bless you.”

Luz hurried home, for it was getting dark, but just as she reached the path back to her own cabin she came across a large pile of dry, good firewood. She picked it up and hurried home.

“Oh mama!” she cried. “I left the wood I had gathered with a poor man near the forest, but look! There’s a pile of dry, good firewood here!”

“What a lovely girl you are, Luz.” Her mother said. “Just like Brigit you give more than what you can spare. But look, Brigit left this wood for you as a gift. Those who keep the sun’s light strong and care for others are always taken care of.”

A few weeks later a neighbor had taken Luz’s mother on a visit to a friend’s house in the village and Luz was home alone, tending the chickens and nanny goats. Luz went out and collected the last few eggs the chickens would lay that winter and went inside to make a small lunch for herself. Just then an old woman walked up the path by their house and asked if Luz had any bread to spare. The woman looked like she needed more than just a slice of bread to get her home and Luz remembered the story of the old woman who gave Brigit shelter one cold night. The woman tore down a piece of her house and killed her only calf to feed and warm Brigit, but in the morning her cow had another calf and her house was whole and warm. Well, thought, Luz, I don’t have to tear down our cabin to give this woman a warm lunch so she invited her in.

Luz prepared the last of the eggs with the last of the goat milk and a few slices of bread to make a warm meal for the woman, and let her sit by the warm fire for as long as she needed.

“Thank you, child.” she said. “I am on my way to visit my daughter, and your gifts and kindness will warm me until I get there. Bless you, child, bless you.”

When Luz’s mother came home Luz rushed to find the last food in the cupboard to make her dinner, but instead of a crust of bread she found a full egg basket and two whole wheels of cheese.

“Oh mama!” she cried. “I fed a poor woman the last of our eggs this afternoon, but look! There’s a dozen eggs here!”

“What a lovely girl you are, Luz.” Her mother said. “Just like Brigit you give more than what you can spare. But look, Brigit left those eggs for you as a gift. Those who keep the sun’s light strong and care for others are always taken care of.”

Late in the winter, after Christmas but while the days are still dark and cold Luz’s mother, who had always been weak, got terribly sick. Luz was so worried, especially when her mother couldn’t even get out of bed. She kept her mother warm and the fire strong, and prayed to Brigit for help.

After three nights of this, when it felt like winter will never end and her mother would never be well, Luz fell asleep by the fire. She dreamed she heard an old woman walking by the window of their little cabin chanting.

Moving rightways with the sun
My blessings weave and bend
Weave and bend

All winter you did keep the light
Spring blessing soon will rise
Soon will rise

Luz rose from her seat by the fire and wrapped her shawl around her shoulders. She grabbed her Martinmas lantern and headed out to follow the sound. Ahead of her she saw a woman dressed all in black, with hair white as the snow and a face dark like old wood walking slowly through the woods. Luz followed her quietly, sure the old woman must know she’s there, but the old woman never turned around or stopped chanting. She just kept walking into the woods. Luz followed the woman further into the woods than she had ever been before but she wasn’t afraid, the old woman seemed to have a light and warmth that made Luz feel safe.

Moving rightways with the sun
My blessings weave and bend
Weave and bend

All winter you did keep the light
Spring blessing soon will rise
Soon will rise

Eventually, as the sky started to lighten in the east, the old woman, with Luz following behind, came to a clearing with an old stone well in it. The old woman stood by the well and finally spoke, “Come closer child. Do you know who I am?” Luz shook her head, too afraid to say what she knew must be true.

“I know I don’t look like the beautiful woman in the stories your mother tells you, but I am her, I am Brigit. This night is my night, this morning my dawn. You carry with you the light you have nurtured all winter with good deeds and warm stories. Because you have done so well at caring for that light through the long dark winter you may have a wish. What do you wish for, child?”

“I wish for my Mother to be well again.. and.. and for this winter to be over! I am so sick of it being cold all the time.”

Brigit laughed, “Granted one wish and you ask for two. No matter, it can be arranged.”

Just then, the first morning bird sang out, and the first ray of dawn’s light broke over the horizon. The old crone Brigit pulled the bucket out of the well, dipped her hands into the cold, clear water, and splashed her face. Her robes instantly turned to red, and her hair to a speckled grey and black, and her face to that of a matronly woman of middle age. In just another moment, the disk of the sun broke above the horizon, spilling full sunlight into the clearing with the well. The mother Brigit dipped her hands into the bucket again, and once more splashed a handful of water onto her face. In the blink of an eye her robes turned to pure white, her hair to a deep auburn red and her face fair as that of a young maiden.

“Come, bring your lamp here,” said the maiden Brigit and Luz did as she was asked. Brigit took the lantern from her hands and blew the candle out, but the light didn’t go away. It seemed to Luz that the light from the candle, instead of being kept inside the small lantern, spread throughout the whole forest. The morning dew sparkled on swelling buds and the sun seemed even brighter than it had been the day before. The snow was still deep and the air cold, but Luz could tell spring would be on its way soon.

The maiden Brigit pulled a small tin cup out of her cloak and filled it with water from the well. “Take this to your Mother and have her drink it. She will be well soon, and spring is on its way. Keep my memory alive, Luz, tell stories about my good deeds and live them out in your own life. Blessed be.”

Photo by dawn m. armfield

Luz took the cup and her lantern and hurried home, as quickly as she could, but careful to not spill a drop of the precious water Brigit pulled from the sacred well.

“Oh mama!” she cried, when she got home. “I met sweet Brigit at the well and she gave me this magic water to make you well! Oh, mama! You will be well again!”

“What a lovely girl you are, Luz.” Her mother said. “Brigit found you who are so like herself and has blessed us all. Those who keep the sun’s light strong and care for others are always taken care of.”