It’s six days before Easter. Around the house all traces of snow are gone, replaced by puddles, hints of new green, grey, yellow and brown. Today by the porch, the first tulip tips are peeking from the earth and two roads away, red tree buds are out.
This week, for the Haikai Challenge, Frank Tassone presents ‘whitebait’, a traditional Japanese spring ‘kigo’ (haiku season word). As well, Frank reminds us that we are in the Christian season of Lent, a period of reflection and restraint in which eating fish sometimes plays a role. Christian symbols and practices are part of the culture I grew up in…though I have long been a vegetarian with other spiritual leanings.
For centuries and perhaps millenniums, schools of immature fry (whitebait) have been easy spring catches for coastal peoples around the world. Though still traditional delicacies, small fry are less available today. As human populations have grown, fish numbers in oceans and rivers decline. Conservationists warn that it is unsustainable to take the young of large fish…for this reason whitebaiting has been strictly regulated around the world.
A Lent tradition is to eat fish instead of meat, on Fridays and Ash Wednesday (the Wednesday before Easter Sunday). Fasting, meditating, and abstaining from certain foods are spiritual practices in many religions. As we reflect, our motivations for restraint may extend beyond ourselves to the natural world around us.
Groundhog Day is a custom observed in Canada (where I live) and in the United States. Usually it is only a piece of news chatter for me, but this year when I realize it is on Saturday (February 2) and I remember that photos I took on Friday feature long shadows, my interest is piqued. I took pictures in the morning when the sun was rising and shadows were long.
And this is what Groundhog Day is about: predicting spring based on sun and shadows in early February. The notion is that halfway between winter solstice (December 20) and spring equinox (March 20) a groundhog emerges out of his den to check the weather. If he sees his shadow, the prediction is for a long bout of cold weather, and not seeing his shadow means an early arrival of warmer weather. Whether or not any of this makes sense, the good news around here is that Groundhog Day was cloudy, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow and warmer weather will come soon.
Winter is a time of ‘calamities’ I realize as I slide 4 feet stepping off the front porch…the morning snow melted and refroze to ice. Later, safely seated inside, I scroll through memories of past winters since we moved out of the city…the door lock frozen after service hours (we went to a motel); the slow skid and collision (lesson: winter tires are essential); the unfortunate bird that smashed our windshield on the highway; the year I had to drive with a door open as the back latch was frozen; the year the house fuel tank froze–we paid for a service call for a simple fix that could have been suggested over the phone.
This week the car windshield cracked overnight in a severe temperature plunge and to top it off I learned at the garage that mice had once again destroyed the air filter.
a second income
if they paid rent
mice in the cabin filter
While the windshield was being replaced I walked over to the local library. This involved crossing at lights over five lanes of suburban roadway. Not all sidewalks are plowed so choosing a route took some thought. In the end I discovered that the presence of snow revealed a shorter route.
This January I find myself surrendering to winter, adapting to the calls of sleep, oven casseroles, and layers of cotton, wool and polyester—layers worn and taken off with changes in damp and chill. Dreams, no resolutions, but hazy sightings of possibility accompany me under layers of comforters. They nestle within as a cat circles my lap, quelling my daily resistance.