As usual, I’m late to the holiday. February 2nd was Imbolc, the feast day of Saint Brigid–or, as it’s called in America, Groundhog Day. Much less romantic.
Imbolc is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, the shortest day of the year (December 21st) and the one that balances light and darkness (March 20th). The word itself comes from the Old Irish word for “ewe’s milk,” since sheep coming into milk was traditionally one of the first signs of spring.
Saint Brigid was once a Celtic goddess; funny how these things change. An eternal flame burned in her honor here in Ireland for over a thousand years, in a temple no man was allowed to enter. The Church extinguished the flame in the fourteenth century and turned the temple into an abbey, but it was run by nuns, and still, no man could enter. Funny how some things don’t change.
My two dairy goats, Nanny and Ninny, have in fact really come into their milk this past week; they had their kids back in August, and we’ve been kept in milk all winter, but suddenly–right in time for Imbolc–there’s a huge excess. So in addition to the garlic-and-herb soft cheese I always make, I have several jars of cajeta, a Mexican milk caramel sauce, which I’ve been drizzling over plain yogurt and stirring into coffee (raw goat’s milk makes an especially fluffy foam for cappuccinos, too).
I also made my first batch of goat’s milk soap, which it turns out takes just three ingredients: milk, lye, and some other fat. I used sunflower and coconut oils, and the bars turned out a pale, buttery color. They have to cure for a few weeks now, but when I washed the bowl and hand blender I used to make them, the lather was creamy and promising.
The goats themselves have been kicking up their heels lately, too. They know spring is coming.
And the biggest miracle: pools of snowdrops, growing at the edges of our yard and in a little hidden glade down the road. In a few weeks it will look like snow again, but warm, living snow, the snow of springtime.
Imbolc. These are the real holidays: the turning points of the year, which come whether you remember them or not. Even if you’re an absentminded writer–or a groundhog.