A year ago this weekend we were in Shelburne Falls, a magical place I’ve written about before. Unbeknownst to us, it would be our last “normal” getaway pre-pandemic. By normal I mean mask-free, hugs okay, indoor dining and open mic nights at local breweries — it was all still happening. We’d stopped in nearby Turner’s Falls on our way there, and delighted with what we found, looked forward to returning to explore it there further. I miss that.
Nevertheless, I’m thankful we have some photos of the time. Photos can make me feel wistful and nostalgic, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, it really depends on the photo, as well as my mood.
Looking at the year-old Shelburne Falls photos makes me happy, I suppose because I feel that hope is closer on the horizon now. In the meantime I have our photos to remind me of that weekend —The Deerfield River iced over, fresh snowfall, misty breath in frosty evening air, and plenty of walks back and forth from the Airbnb across the Iron Bridge, and past a silent Bridge of Flowers into Buckland — for favorite restaurants, the brewery and the coop. We enjoyed the Friday open-mic night at Floodwater Brewing followed by a cozy Saturday evening at the fabulous Blue Rock Bistro, sitting at the bar. Casablanca was showing on the screen and we shared a delicious meal and cocktails. Morning coffee run to Mocha Maya’s and homemade doughnuts from the Foxtrot Diner. Walks through quiet streets with friendly hellos and drivers who actually drive like people live there — and even better — stop to let them cross the street. Places like Shelburne Falls don’t need a pandemic to slow things down and illuminate what truly matters, they never forgot, but for others who have forgotten, our former speeded-up, business-as-usual world would be one of the few pandemic casualties I’d welcome.
Candles feature today with the celebration of the Feast of St. Blaise, and the blessing of the throats. Legend has it that St. Blaise, a bishop and a physician, while on his way to be martyred, cured a child who was choking on a fish bone. In the Catholic Church, a priest will bless a parishioner’s throat with two crossed candles, praying for protection from choking and diseases of the throat. It’s fascinating how Christian and Pagan rituals and celebrations share so many symbols and themes — from candles, fire, light, smoke and herbs for ritual, to gods and goddesses (or angels and saints) who are patrons and protectors for various human experiences.
Between St. Brigid’s Day, Imbolc, Candlemas, GroundHog Day and St. Blaise’s Feast Day this week, there’s a whole lotta light and candle magic going on. I celebrate the Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days in some small way, as I find this to be a sort of anchor for the rhythm of my days and the flow of the seasons. They can certainly be something to look forward to, much like the phases of the moon for me. There is endless information available over how different cultures celebrate some of these festivals or feast days, but I prefer to do my own abbreviated versions of various rituals associated with my own Celtic heritage — and as we are now halfway through the dark season and moving into the light, naturally I have candles lit. Keeping it simple means I will actually celebrate with some intention. For St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc, I have my herbal smoke blend with violet leaf, and a supper of salmon, with my riff on Colcannon (basically a mash of potato and cabbage) of kale and potato — the salmon symbolizes the return of Springtime for me, violets are early harbingers of the warmer days ahead, and the potato is a reminder of the importance of the dark of the underground, as well as the light from above for growth and renewal. Stuff like this is just one of the things that floats my boat, what floats yours?
The truth of the matter is…I haven’t really missed Instagram this past month. Another truth? I didn’t get a whole heck of a lot of writing or work on my website done either. That was my intention — sort of anyway. BUT…I took lots of walks, did lots of baking, tried a new meditation app, did some hand sewing and knitting, read and reread good books, rediscovered other places to sit and look out the windows of our home, watched snow fall, heard gale winds howl, and rainstorms dance, and listened to classical music. The most radical act of all though was sitting and doing absolutely nothing else but put my arm around my furry beast, Oonagh, and allow myself to rest in that space and enjoy the sheer luxury of…doing nothing. The break has served me well. It’s an art you know. Tricia Hersey, of @thenapministry is an artist who speaks to this art in a language I understand. Perhaps she speaks it for you, too.