Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Candlemas Day - The Countdown Begins

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

An old-time saying goes, “The prudent farmer has half his wood and half his hay by Candlemas Day.” The exact date of Candlemas Day falls on February 2, a day more widely known by most for something not at all connected with the church calendar.

Groundhog Day, February 2, has significance for me, far beyond whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow. The dark days of December and January have come and gone, defeated by the ceaseless passage of time. Candlemas, Groundhog Day, brings with it the absolute certainty that light, warmth and life will eventually return. Up until now, that cheery event seemed far beyond our reach.

February, while a rather snowy month, brings with it certain, distinct changes in the natural world. Chickadee song takes on a different tone, as they become territorial, preparatory to breeding season. Male woodpeckers test out their “drumming” skills by pounding on hollow trees and skunks and raccoons make forays into backyards. And, always, someone sees a robin or two. By month’s end, maple sap may run in ancient trees on south-facing hillsides.

So for me, the countdown to spring begins on February 2. This year, the period between Groundhog Day and official spring spans 46 days. And in that brief period, great and marvelous transitions occur, culminating in the death of dark, cold winter and the new life of tender, verdant spring.

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