You are walking along, head down, in that way of winter, trying to keep
warm and dry as the rain falls. Your thoughts are dismal like the day.
Then suddenly you spot a flash of colour on the path. You pick up two pink scooped petals. They look newly born in the soft rain. Magnolias! But where?
Walking with children
It was the littlest one who spotted the tree, with its blossoms high against the grey sky.
Then we found sprays of small pink flowers, with petals opening like a fairy dress, each with five white stamens. The stamens were topped with a small dark dot, rather like a bendy match. In each case, one stamen was naked. ‘That one has been fertilised’, I declared. The flowers were from a puriri tree, abundant in this season and easy to see with an upward tilt of the head.
Why am I talking about children?
What have children to do with the turn of the seasons? In the Celtic wheel of the year, the seasons move through three phases of the triple goddess: the Woman/Mother, the Crone, and the Maiden.
As we emerge from winter, the Maiden phase of the goddess returns, and with it the energy of children. She is celebrated in the festival of Imbolc, named after the returning flow of milk in the ewes. The festival of returning life is also associated with the Irish goddess Brigid (known as Bride in Scotland), the goddess of fire, creativity and healing.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Imbolc falls on August 2, which is the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It’s when we can wake in the morning knowing that the light has returned sufficiently to warm the soil and foster new life.
Nature emerges into a delicate phase after the coldest days of winter. While in Te Ao Maori, the seasonal transitions are not usually pinpointed, and regional variations are important, in the Celtic world, the transitions are precise, being measured by the movement of the sun.
At Imbolc/Brigid the maiden aspect of the triple goddess comes into her own. Brigid is also the goddess of fire and creativity. She was celebrated with candlelit processions and her youthful energy was certainly present in what we were to discover next.
Down the steps we ventured and through the bush. It wasn’t long before my granddaughters pounced on a cluster scarlet beak-like flowers, each with a spray of red stamens sprouting from the top like a cockatoo’s crown.
What could they be? When I discovered them the week before I was excited to think they might be kaka beak – but I couldn’t find the proof.
Both girls, looking to the tree that arched high over the dense bush, knew immediately. The flame tree!
And so it was that our heads were lifted high on this grey winter day.
Connecting earth and sky
Lifting my head from the ground to the sky as the children and I matched petals to trees reminded me of ancient teachings from China.
Photo credit John Shen
In my Chinese Qigong practice, I am taken with every breath to the connection between earth and sky. One gesture draws up energy from the earth and another draws down energy from the heavens. The two mix and mingle within the human body and soul, in the ‘tai chi channel’, bringing a sense of union, of wholeness that is profoundly energising and replenishing.
Petals on the pathways, leaves in the skyways, sun and rain, earth and trees, moon and stars all speak to each other through the air and through the roots.
A greening world where all things are connected is a safer world.
Noticing the connections leads to nurturing the connections.
Nurturing the connections leads to replenishing the starvations.
Replenishing the starvations leads to a thriving earth,
which leads to thriving creatures,
which leads to safe and healthy humans.
What vision for this planet arises in you when you lift your head and lift your heart?
This post is an excerpt from my Seasons Newsletter. You may sign up for the Newsletter on this page or on the home page of this website.
For further reading, take a look at A Cup of Sunlight: discovering the sacred in everyday life
Chapter 2: Replenishing