Bring on the Broom

Regardless of what the groundhog has told us, we are midway between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is no longer dark at 4:30. Light is edging back in— opalescent in the mornings and cold silver in the evenings—but light nonetheless. The year is familiar to us now; it’s no longer new. We’ve made friends with it, or we should. Our intentions are forming, just as the germ of life is forming in the seeds that were shed last fall. These seed-embryos are buried under the dirt, under the scatter of leaves, under the snow and ice, but they have a will to grow and become—just as our ideas, inchoate and unformed, will grow and become. February is waning and March is barreling in—it is time for us to brush away the cobwebs and the cabin fever. The ancients connected February very clearly with cleaning. The broom was a symbol of this mid-point—called a quarter-day—between the solstice and equinox. Nothing witchy about it; it was simply time to clean. While it was too early to till the garden, everyone felt a new pulse beating all around. The owls had mated in January and were already sitting on their nests.

Crows and ravens were massing and yapping in the trees, frantic with their own spring rituals. Each sunny day made spring feel closer, but the elders knew how much needed tending in the house and the barn. The pagans of old focused their early spring energies on healing the wounded and the sick, poetry and song, and smithcraft—such as making new tools or sharpening old ones. Christianity brought Candlemas, honoring Mary and filling every chapel with hundreds of candles to light the way through the remainder of winter. For us, the evidence is a li

ttle different. Seed catalogs show up in the mail or the in-box. Lawn tools bristle in the aisles of the hardware store. We Montanans don’t have to be told that the bears are stirring in their tree-hollows and caves. Many other animals, receiving photo-signals from the lengthening daylight, are waking. Still others are well into their mating cycles, stoking the rhythms of life for the year we’ve just begun to consider. We still have many more days of howling wind, crusty gray glaciers in the driveway, and good old Montana mud. We can map out the flower or vegetable garden – or we can lay hands on the broom. Or, those of us who side with Erma Bombeck – “My idea of cleaning is to sweep the room with a glance” – can tough out the train wreck of late spring by using one of several other popular tools – humor, denial, or a plane ticket.