Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Magic

Another month has come and gone and the Wheel of the Year is turning ever on. Alban Arthan was a magical time. I was fortunate to be able to lead a program about the Winter Solstice at the nature center, which more than 100 people attended. We made evergreen wreaths, beeswax candles and tiny Yule logs, people tried fire-by-friction and I told stories as the Green Man. The following days were filled with special memories, shared by family and friends.

Now, I am ready for snow. Except for a storm on Mackinac Island and some other parts of Northern Michigan (which we had to drive through), much of our State has been without snow all winter. I love snowshoeing and the soft, white blanket that covers Mother Earth this time of year. It muffles city sounds and reflects the light of the moon to guide my way. I need its cleansing power, to cover the dust and grime of a tired landscape and to illumine my soul. Every flake a miracle of nature, every snowdrift, sculpted by sharp winter winds, a beautiful piece of artwork. 

I also need to take the time to curl up in front of the woodstove with a cup of tea and a snowstorm raging outside. To delve into the Gwersi of my Bardic studies, to focus and reflect on the miracles and mysteries of the Earth Mother and all her creatures. 

Even without snow, I was fortunate to have several amazing encounters with some animals over the past couple of weeks. My brother and I spent three days searching for Snowy Owls. There have been a plethora of reports from across North America of this far northern species making their way south this winter. Finally, on our third day in misty rain and fog we spotted an owl, along a lonely country road, perched on the roof of a house! Further down the same road, we came across another sitting on a short power pole. 

At the Nature Center, a family of River Otters have also been spotted numerous times this past fall and early winter. We headed out to the pond one day and hiked around it. After finding many scat piles of fish scales, we finally spotted two otters who quickly swam away. Quietly making our way along the shore, we were lucky to see them both swimming and exploring holes of an old beaver lodge. One was especially curious about us and it chirruped and snuffed at us several times before disappearing into its hole. 

Finally, my family was lucky to see a Pileated Woodpecker along a road on Mackinac Island. Though I wasn't able to get close enough for a picture, I later discovered another along a trail, patiently working on a tree. These crow-sized woodpeckers are the largest in North America (if the Ivory-billed is extinct), and seeing one is always a special experience.

May your days ahead, wherever you are, be filled with the cleansing power of Nature. Whether it's a blanket of snow, the warm sun overhead, wind in the treetops or the burble of a stream, let the magic and mystery of the land soak into your soul and bring you peace. Now, I leave you with part of a delightful poem, by Claude McKay.

The Snow Fairy
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, 
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, 
Whirling fantastic in the misty air, 
Contending fierce for space supremacy. 
And they flew down a mightier force at night, 
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, 
And they, frail things had taken panic flight 
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet. 
I went to bed and rose at early dawn 
To see them huddled together in a heap, 
Each merged into the other upon the lawn, 
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep. 
The sun shone brightly on them half the day, 
By night they stealthily had stol'n away. 

Yours under the Snowy Oaks,

Skybranch /|\