Snow & Ice Magic
Where I live, we don’t tend to get a lot of snow and if we do it isn’t usually very much and it doesn’t stay long however if you do have snow then you can make all kinds of magic with it....
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I always say that I never understood why Mayday is the international distress signal until I moved to Minnesota.
It's months yet to May, but the maypole casts a long shadow.
You may know Hal an Tow (heard here in rocking cover by Oyster Band) as the signature tune of Bealtaine.
Well, here's a winter version from here in Snow Country.
Och. I've been shoveling so much snow that my butt hurts.
Usually by now I'd have my shoveling muscles well in place, but we've had so little snow this winter that I've gone slack.
Well, the Great Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2016 put paid to all that. It's time to take up the shovel and show what we're made of.
Here in Snow Country, shoveling is something of an art form. Good shoveling is a dance, a balanced pitting of muscle strength against weight resistance. You want maximum clearance for minimum energy output. You want rhythm, regularity. You want to do as much pushing and as little lifting as possible.
Push and two and push and two and lift and throw and
push and two and push and two and lift and throw and
Bone wind has returned
mother of winter’s chill
sweeping through bare branches
and rattling dusty leaves.
The remnants of summer
have completely faded
and the doorway to the new year
has cracked open.
With the skeletal swirl of frost and freeze
I see the hint
of new things
waiting to burst from behind the door.
Hibernating now perhaps
hunkered down to wait it out
resting, biding time, percolating
nestled in darkness
but, oh so ready, to grow.
It is only on the surface
that the world prepares to take a long nap
underneath the crust
new ideas gestate
and time crowns anew
with the promise and potential of birth
held in cupped hands.
The flame of fresh ideas flickers
until the blaze of possibility
envelopes the cold.
Sleet chitters against the panes as I write this. Our all-too-brief Bridey's Spring is, it would seem, well and gone, alas. Cold air masses are sailing down from the north towards us (they call them “Alberta Clippers” here), driving snow before them, with deep cold in their wake. Today they're predicting Thundersnow.
Thunder-and-lightning snowstorms aren't something that we see here very often. To hear the very Voice of Summer in Winter's cold midst cannot fail to feel uncanny. Thunder and snow just don't keep company much.
We last heard Thunder's voice on October 6th. Perhaps, like other birds, the Thunderbirds fly south in the winter. The First Thunder of the year is always a sure sign of spring. In Russia they say that Perún is breaking up the ice with his hammer. Snorri, no doubt, would have it that þórr is smiting the Frost Giants.* According to our local folk wisdom, spring's First Thunder is a sure predictor of future weather: six months later comes First Frost. Apparently the climatological evidence (here in Minnesota, anyway) actually bears out this correlation. Today is February 10. Oh dear.
Anyone who has ever lived in the North can tell you about it: snowlight. Waking from an afternoon nap I knew immediately, by the light alone, that snow was falling. Snowlight.
What's most surprising is just how bright it is. Some years back at a Midwinter's Eve bonfire down at Coldwater Spring, the ritualists went on and on about how this night, being the solstice, was the darkest night. Unconscious irony is my favorite kind. While they talked darkness, we all stood there in a night striking for its brightness. We'd had so much snow that year that one could practically have read a newspaper by the ambient light from the drifts and sky. Snowlight.
In quality and color it more nearly resembles moonlight than anything else: like the Moon's, snow's light is reflected light. But moonlight comes from a source, and snowlight is ambient. In snowlight, one immerses.
Snowlight has a certain thickness, a nearly tangible quality to it. One thinks of snow as silent, unlike rain. But the Northern ear knows that you can indeed hear snow. It's a high, crystalline ringing, all those snowflakes chiming together as they fall, in which even familiar sounds echo strangely. The same is true of the light, as it bounces wildly back and forth from flake to falling flake. Snowlight.
This post also appears on www.tarotbyhilary.com.
This week may have been the week of the “Snowpocalypse That Never Was” in the media, and people complaining about how the press and the people making the decisions overreacted. Me? I’m firmly in the “better safe than sorry” camp in that regard. Even my card of the day for the start of the storm was the 5 of Pentacles… I was tending to agree with the weathermen that the storm would be as bad as they said it would be.