Imbolc marks the midpoint of winter and traditionally begins at sundown February 1st through to sundown February 2nd. In the Christian calendar, it is known as candlemas, a time when candles are lit for the Virgin Mary. However, I prefer to embrace the Celtic interpretation of this seasonal festival as it feels embedded in my Irish roots and lies closer to my heart. This lesser-known ancient festival celebrates Brigid, the fire goddess of fertility, growth and birth. It welcomes the returning light and the first stirrings of life after the still silence of winter.
With the start of a new year not far behind and the start of a new season not far ahead, I have been reflecting on the effortless beauty and wisdom of nature’s cycles and how we can honour her rhythms in our lives. As we witness the smallest trembles of movement above the surface, there are also deep, hidden stirrings in the dark earth below. This mirrors the beginnings of new hopes and dreams that are forming into manifestations in my own life. It’s such an exciting time of year for me!
Reflecting on the Winter Months
As we greet the new year and welcome spring, Imbolc marks the moment we can pause to reflect on the winter months that came before it. It is the perfect opportunity for deciding what we want to embrace and what we intend to let go of. I really use this time to reflect on my work, the experiences that have nourished me and the lessons I’ve learned in the past months.
This winter particularly, my paintings have become more abstracted. Inspired by Monet and Turner, I’ve been studying water and its reflections. There’s something profoundly entrancing and mystical about a pool of water – its stillness, movements and turbulences. As I look into the mesmerising, multi-layered world it reveals to me, I’m grateful for these opportunities for reflection. I am experimenting with trying to capture some of this ethereal quality in my new work.
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Welcoming the Light of Spring
As winter draws to a close and each day grows warmer and brighter, Imbolc is a symbolic time to reawaken after the season of rest and greet the light of spring. One of my favourite ways to do this is to walk in wild places, either on the moors or by the sea. I love witnessing the earth gently stirring with white banks of snowdrops and velvet buds on the branches of trees, enjoying the ways nature is coming alive again after the dormant months behind us. This growing light simply makes my heart happy.
“Harshness vanished. A sudden softness has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey. Little rivulets of water changed their singing accents. Tendernesses, hesitantly, reach toward the earth from space, and country lanes are showing these unexpected subtle risings that find expression in the empty trees.”
Early Spring by Rainer Maria Rilke
Returning home after these crisp days and lighting a fire seems like a simple gesture of gratitude to acknowledge the returning power of the sun. I like these small acts that can weave magic into my daily life, they fill me with joy. Looking ahead, I feel ready to embrace the growth spring will bring my way. I have planted many dreams and I am now excited to see some of them grow!
Purifying & Cleansing Your Environment
All around me, seeds, trees and plants are opening their hearts to the light of the new season and laying down the roots to prepare for new growth. Imbolc is a gentle reminder for me to follow their example and lay the foundations for growth by cleansing my life and setting intentions for the future.
Deep clearing of living and working spaces feels helpful during this process. Eradicating chaos in our homes allows peace and calm to settle. Sometimes this is a challenge(!), but I love the spaciousness that this deep, careful attention creates. Environments become a clear space for fertile growth, peace and connection. Clarity in a space that allows energies to flow is important in my life and my studio is no exception. Making sure that my work space is organised and my materials are ready to use when I need them is key to creating the right environment for work.
I naturally swing between order and chaos in most aspects of my life and my studio is a colourful testament to this fact! This time of year tenderly invites us with an opportunity for deep organisation, so I am clearing abandoned corners of my barn. New purchases of rich rainbows of oil paints from Michael Harding and Daler Rowney fill the paint-splatted shelves. I am excited to weave these jewels of pigments into new work. The kaleidoscopic tubes feel like promises for the future as they lie quietly on the battered oak planks. Everything feels as if it is bursting with possibility! I love methodically culling and purifying my studio space so I am ready for the wild dance that will unfold in the meadow outside.
Committing to Your Dreams
Imbolc honours the way nature embraces each day’s light and warmth so new growth can flourish in spring and summer. It’s a beautiful, humble example that I love to follow. Committing to my dreams and vision involves opening my heart to change and embracing all the possibilities and opportunities that reach me, big or small.
My intention to bring joy into the lives of others through painting is paramount to my practice. This year, despite the turbulence and challenges circulating around the world, I remain as committed to this vision as ever. I firmly believe that in the seemingly darkest moments there is always a tiny glimmer of light to be discovered. Bringing this intention into my paintings is instinctual and very tangible in my most recent collection of work.
Soon, seeds will begin to germinate, trees and bushes will grow new leaves, and wildflowers will spread their blankets of joy again. The frosty meadow just outside my studio will transform into the gorgeous wildflower landscape that I love so much. Imbolc affords a time to shake off the darkness of the previous months and look ahead at the possibilities of the new year. For me, it also provides a moment of pause so I can feel rested and ready to commit to my visions and dreams in 2019.