Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bridie’s Bed

Saturday February 2, 2008:

The ice-hard wind of winter’s end,
Gently rocks the fragile flower.
My fingers laced in thick ewe’s wool,
I wait beside the Bridie bed.

On Imbolc eve, I had made and placed a Bridie bed upon a low stool in front of my gas fire (the nearest thing I have to a hearth) Gently, my hands had line the oval basket with a beige woollen shawl, folded a piece of tan fake fur, lined it with a milky creamy silk scarf, arranged to make a warm and soft little nest. My fingers feasted on the roughness of the wool, the softness of the fur and the smooth coolness of the silk as I turned down the edges invitingly.

On an offerings plate nearby, I had placed a tiny glass of water, a mini bowl of seeds, my travel alter in it’s small silk pouch, a round stone taken from a beach in Cornwall near the end of the last pilgrimage and a small piece of rowan twig, wound round with red wool. Making sure all was in place, I crept away to bed.

On Imbolc night, I sat down beside the Bridie bed. My curious fingers delved amongst the wool and silk, something was different. Surely this was not how I had left it?

We’re at winter’s end. Small flowers push nervous tips up out of the soil. The air is fragrant with their opening as they reach shining dew-blessed faces hopefully towards the pale returning sun.

In the fields, ewes heavily give up their new borns, huddle together against the bitter wind, their piteous bleets carried thinly upon its sharp tongue. Imbolc, Oimbolc, ewe’s milk, the year is still a bbaby, new, vulnerable but full of determined life. Beside the Bridie bed, I sit and dream.
The night is dark. I walk across the bare hills, She, the dark mother, crowned with stars is spread across the heavens. I am alone but not alone, I know that, yet I shiver in the biting wind that swoops across the hills and feel desolate.

I don’t know where I am going; I only know that I must keep walking. What I want is over the next hill or perhaps the one after that. I put my head down and tramp on.

Time passes. Surely I must be near? My feet have taken me up many a steep hill and down the other side. My knees shriek their protest once more as I top a hill and feel the full force of the wind on my chilled face.

Down in the valley, I am sheltered from the wind. I walk under a sky now dark and starless. I am weighed down with cares and move heavily.

At first, I smell them, coming to me on the night’s breath, grassy, decayed, sweet but sour. And then I hear them, frail bleets catching softly on the edge of my hearing. I turn to listen harder and notice a darker, dense and woollier place over on my right. Carefully, I edge my way slowly towards them.

And as I walk, the dark thickness grows grey and more distinct. Like a cluster of nebulous boulders at first, I soon see the outline of a flock of ewes huddled together for warmth. I move slowly towards them, following their soft bleating as though they are calling to me.

And then they are around me. Incurious pale faces, dark eyes watching as I move amongst them. I reach out and touch. Soft wool fills my hands and I lace its softness and curliness lovingly through my fingers.

As one, they move closer, sink down, I amongst them. I lie between them, held in a woolly embrace, cradled and safe. I sleep. They sleep. The dark sky canopies us.

There is a draft. What is it? I shift and reach out. Soft wall teases through my fingers as I struggle to sit up.

I look up. The black sky, a dark grey, silvers at its eastern edge, the hill over which I had climbed in the night, dark against the silver of the pre dawn sky. And as I watch, the hill is edged with gold and the tiniest finger point of sun pierces the loosened huddle of sheep surrounding me.

I rise and walk amongst my night’s companions. With gentle finger caresses, I thank them for their protection. They shift beneath my touch, heads down, purposefully breakfasting on the soft moist grass beneath us.

And then I am outside and walking away, across the flat plain, back to the hill behind which the sun is emerging. The grass beneath my feet shimmers with golden drops as the sun’s first rays light each blade. It is Imbolc and I walk from the shelter of the ewes out into a brand new day.

A clock on the gas fire ticked. The house creaked. I reached out and touched the soft warmth of the inside of Bridie’s bed, tenderly stroked the place that seemed different from when I made the bed the night before. “All hail the sheep that I will meet on my journeys this year”, I said as I got up to toddle off to my own bed. “And to you Bridie, and to all the infants so fragile but yet so strong, I send kisses … mwoiah!


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