Monday, February 2, 2009

At the midpoint of winter, time and light are relative.

This morning I lost track of time sitting in an old Queen Anne side chair in the sun, working on my daily meditations. The Grandfather clock behind me began to chime, startling me from my writing. Sure that I had let much time go by; that it was now 9:00 O'clock and I was now off schedule, I listened to the chimes and counted. They stopped. Turning, I saw the hands read 8:00 0'clock.

Astounded, I got up and checked all three digital clocks in the kitchen. Yup! All read a digital 8:00 am. I had only been seated in thought for 20 minutes, but it had felt like more than an hour. How could this be? Now several hours later, I can attest to the fact that everything I did after those minutes in the sun has sped by in the opposite equation. What seems a frantic twenty minutes is an hour and a half. I liked my lovely, sunny time warp much better.

Time and light are connected. We are exactly halfway between the winter and the spring equinox; the midpoint between the shortest day and the speeding up of the return of light to the northern hemisphere.

Most of us have lost the association, but this day is known as Candlemas Day. This was the day that all the household candles were brought to the church to be blessed. It took that long for all that tallow from the slaughtering and rendering to be turned into candles, I guess. Or, perhaps, because this time of year is so dreary most everywhere, they needed a reason to celebrate. In ancient times, people actually said that Christmas lasted forty days...from December 25 to February 2.

From the Romans to the Scots, acknowledging this day has swung from feast (of light) to royal declaration. In Scotland the weather this time of year is typically dreadful. In olden days this led to an odd school ritual. The children had to bring their own candles to school so they had light by which to study! When candles were replaced by gas lights, the children brought money for the light and the one who raised the most money was declared to be King or queen of a six week long season until Spring.

Candlemas day, the saying goes, is said to be a predictor of the weather:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o' the winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter's gane at Yule.

I'm not sure when the groundhog took over from Candlemas, but in Germany, the weather prediction was handed off to a badger, not a ground hog. You use what you've got, I guess.

It was partly sunny here in Colorado today. Six more weeks of winter. Spring lies ahead, but now, now, the light is working on the bare, cold ground. Whether you light candles or believe in groundhogs, this is your reflection time.

Me? I'm going to scare up some more candles and light a few!

©2009 Jan Johnson Wondra