Friday, February 02, 2007

The Bear's Daughter

The Bear's Daughter
by Theodora Goss

She dreams of the south. Wandering through the silent castle,
Where snow has covered the parapets, and the windows
Are covered with frost, like panes of isinglass,
She dreams of pomegranates and olive trees.

But to be the bear's daughter is to be a daughter, as well,
Of the north. To have forgotten a time before
The tips of her fingers were blue, before her veins
Were blue like rivers flowing through fields of ice.

To have forgotten a time before her boots
Were elk-leather lined with ermine.

Somewhere in the silent castle, her mother is sleeping
In the bear's embrace, and breathing pomegranates
Into his fur. She is a daughter of the south,
With hair like honey and skin like orange-flowers.

She is a nightingale's song in the olive groves.

And her daughter, wandering through the empty garden,
Where the branches of yew trees rubbing against each other
Sound like broken violins,

Dreams of the south while a cold wind sways the privet,
Takes off her gloves, which are lined with ermine, and places
Her hands on the rim of the fountain, in which the sun
Has scattered its colors, like roses trapped in ice.

Imbolc, today's Pagan holiday on this full-moon Friday, is not the beginning of spring as some might believe it to stand for. As 'Hecate' says in her blog:

"Imbolc is the deep, deep, deepest deep middle of the Winter. Imbolc is as far into Winter as you can be. Yule was the beginning of Winter and the first day of Spring will be Eostara, the Vernal Equinox on March 21st. Imbolc, which falls between them, truly is mid-Winter.

Imbolc, in my mind, is all about two things: (1) getting through and (2) doing wild things that require a leap of faith. I think, and your mileage may differ, but I think that deep Winter calls on us to take the same walk as the Bear's Daughter takes in Theodora Goss' wonderful poem:

Take off your ermine-lined gloves, the habits and beliefs and carefullnesses that cover your hands and keep you from feeling -- the cold, yes, but also everything else. Touch, with the palm of your whole hand, the icy rim of the fountain, and reach for the sun, reflected and refracted like roses. Touch it even though it freezes your fingers. There are times, lots of times, when the only way "out," the only way "there" -- is through. Deep mid-Winter is like that. If you make it through, you'll see Spring and Summer, but first you have to make it through. And sometimes that means taking off your gloves and plunging your hands into the ice to grasp the fiery roses, to feel something, anything, even if it's pain. It's the only way to find roses in mid-Winter's "empty garden."

What wild thing can you do between now and late March? What warm ermine-lined gloves do you need to pull off? What will help you to make it through?"

I'm working on it.


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