Gen. Beauregard Lee emerged from his home outside Atlanta this morning to see cloudy skies and predict an early spring. That other groundhog up north came away with the same interpretation. I would be quite pleased to see winter wither across the South for the next three weeks. And speaking of interpretations, February 2 seems to have an inordinately large number of associations as do many of those ancient days in our calendar.
|American Groundhog John James Audubon (1785-1851)|
What a difference a day makes:
Groundhog Day; and,
World Wetlands Day; and,
Candlemas, or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple; and,
Feast of the Purification of the Virgin; and,
Imbolc, the first cross-quarter day of the year; and closely associated with,
St. Brigid's Day: and,
a scattering of additional national holidays and lesser feast days.
For us Candlemas has such a special meaning with its focus on Mary and Jesus. The day also reminds us that we have stretched this joyous Christmas holiday to its limit. As much as we love the season it does come to an end in the church calendar. And so today the last of the Christmas decorations have come down from the walls, doorways and mantel to be stored for next season. We'll build a fire in the den fireplace tonight but it will seem naked without its trimmings of red, green, gold and glass. But there will be light and warmth, both spiritual and physical, as this joyous Christmastide - the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Epiphany - ends.
|Presentation of Jesus at the Temple Hans Holbein, German, 1500|
And so on this day we find ourselves with a completely unreliable winter weather forecast, all of our Christmas decorations neatly packed for next season, an enhanced understanding of the meaning of the number "40" in Judeo-Christian history, an introduction to the nexus of culture and cosmology, some knowledge of early Irish history, and an appreciation of the most biologically diverse ecosystem on the planet. After a late dinner tonight I intend to ponder all of this, drink in hand, in a silent conversation with the faces in the fire. We'll remark on this cross-quarter day where temperatures soared well into the 70's that winter's cold indeed gave way to the promise of spring. Better that than relying on predictions from a titled marmot living in a Colonial Revival mini-mansion.