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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Icy Dark Rain Moon retrospective

Over the course of this year, I am working with a local group, and the Perennial Course in Living Druidry. No, I am not abandoning my path, or my Gods; I am walking with friends to learn and sync even more with the natural world around me.
We observe and contemplate the changes from dark moon to dark moon, and then gather to share what we have seen and learned.

This past "moonth" -- a word I have coined for the moon cycle, ran from December 29 through January 27. One of the things were were taking note of was what one might call characteristics of this moonth that might be used to name it. Like many of my colleagues, I noted the preponderance of rain and ice during the past cycle. Normally we do have a "January thaw" so there is usually ice that happens, but this year it was very present both on the ground and as "icy rain" and sleet. I also noted that this period seemed darker than usual, not only because of cloudy skies (night and day) but also because of several, multiple hour long power outages. For me, the physical darkness echoed an emotional darkness that I felt from many around me due to the political situation in our country.

Mixed branches against
the sky in our NW grove.
Being a Druid thing, of course we have been paying attention to the trees as well. This time of year, I always notice the birch -- sacred to my lady Frigga -- and the beech as well; they stand out in the skeletal forest as I go by, with their light brown leaves still firmly attached to their branches. Many of the birches hae bent double in the wind, bowed by layers of accumulated ice and with their branches now firmly affixed to the frozen ground. Because they bend, and mostly do not break, once the ground thaws they will once again stand tall. Their lesson to me was "Sometimes you need to bend." The beeches, still holding leaves despite the wind and coating of ice, say "Hold on tight!" One of my colleagues noted that he saw the birch trees' bark texture as wounds, which goes along with their lesson to me: even 'beaten' they bent but did not break.

Another thing I noticed and have been watching is the play of the shadows of house and garage, with a shaft of light between them, which appear in the back yard as the sun rises over the trees. In order to document this, I have been taking photos out the window from my desk. It's not a terribly clear view, and I was not consistent in shooting even close to the same view, so only the first and last images in my small series (winter means many cloudy sunrises here) aligned well enough for video comparison. It has been interesting to note the changes, which are increasing rapidly. The rate of change of day length speeds up remarkably the closer we get to equinoxes and slows to a crawl closer to solstices. The rate of change of the length of the day is not constant but rather sinusoidal because of the tilt of the earth's axis, more extreme the closer to the pole. You can see a visual representation of this here.

 One of the other attendees mentioned that the hazel nut trees/bushes will be blooming soon and said one would have to look closely, as the flowers are very tiny. Since I have planted hazelnuts, I decided to do a little research and check out my plants. What I found was very interesting!  See those tiny lighter brown things hanging from two of the upward pointing twigs on the photo, above? These are the MALE flowers. Some plants have both male and female individuals (like American Bittersweet) and you must plant both to have berries develop. Many other plants have both the male and female parts in each flower; the wind or insects move the pollen from the stamen to the pistil. Hazel is a tricky one! It has both female and male flowers on each plant. The male flowers called catkins, develop in the fall and hang on the plant through winter, becoming more open and eventually developing a yellow tint. The female flowers look like small reddish brown buds, usually at the branch tips, through the winter. The blossoms, tiny magenta sunbursts, appear early in the spring, before any sign of leaf, and after the catkins have elongated and can move freely in the wind, which distributes the pollen to the pistils. See the entry on "The Natural Web" for more pix and information.

Despite the characterization of this period as the Icy Dark Rain Moon, I still observed, near the end of the moonth, the beginning of the cross quarter tide that some call Imbolc and I term Spring Finding. I do not use electric lights to extend the day for my fowl, as I choose to encourage their natural habit of winter rest. As the days grow shorter, egg production drops. This year I have been getting one egg a day thrugh the late fall and winter, as last year's spring chicks matured. During the last week of the moonth, the hens surprised me with two eggs on several days! So however inappreciably to us humans, the days are getting longer.