(Source : People’s Daily, China. The main Chinese daily newspaper)
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it ? It makes me feel like going there ! End of January in Fujian, south-east of China, close to Taiwan.
OK. Now, let’s have a look outside.
No comment. I’m going back to bed to curl up under my blankets (with a book and a tea, of course) !
The weather we’ve had for the last two weeks makes me write this post again from the beginning. Indeed, the beginning of January was mild. Then, the weather turned wintery at last ! That’s what I said in the post about the puerh stuffed mandarine.
Well, it is true that, here, snow and ice is nothing extraordinary, and I am sure ski resorts are delighted. But. I am not fit for the Alps. And I don’t ski.
I was beginning to think of light-oxidized oolong teas, close to green teas, or even of cooling green teas ; of delicate china bowls instead of sturdy sandstone mugs…
Now, the snow surrounding me is like an ice-cold shower.
We are supposed to see the exiting end of the tunnel ? I feel that we are at the other end : the beginning of winter.
However, according the lunar calendar, February is the beginning of spring. February 1st was Imbolc for the Celts, and tomorrow it will be Candlemas, when people know whether winter will soon die. It is the same as Groundhog Day in Northern America.
In China, the lunar New Year is on February 5th this year. It is the beginning of the lunar year, but, as well, the beginning of the spring festiva. This festival lasts 2 weeks and ends with the lantern festival.
Lanterns and candles symbolize the end of winter. Candlemas comes from the word « candle ».
It is quite logical, despite the weather’s jokes, to make February the beginning of spring.
Below, a diagram showing how seasons are felt and experienced, even though these feelings have nothing to do with the official calendar. The Chinese lunar calendar is based on it.
And if one carefully watches nature, even downtow, one can see winter weakening. A little bit. Yes, it does.
First, days are much longer than a few weeks ago, and there is much more light.
Then, as soon as the sun shines, it is warm. Not hot, not warm enough to forget sweaters, wool hats, coats, and snow boots, but the sun is warmer than a few weeks ago.
And I can feel my inner energy raise. I began spring cleaning…
Let’s be careful, though (don’t forget the second picture at the top of this post). It is only the beginning of the beginning of spring, that frost could sweep away.
Then, how to celebrate this time of the year, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox ?
Do not put your winter recipes away. Do not clean your BBQ device immediately.
Leave the candles on your table to celebrate light’s return. Candlemas comes from the word « candle ».
Let’s keep enjoying winter’s pleasures and fun :
Comfort food, pancakes, crêpes, candles, wood fire (if you are lucky enough to be able to make one), evenings and cuddling with a book and a cup of tea, on the couch or in bed.
But now is also the time to prepare for the new year and the complete settling of spring :
- planning projects, big or small ones, personal or professional ones.
- preparing the garden for those who enjoy it (not me !)
- house cleaning, inner cleaning (what will I let go from my fears and angers ?)
Let’s remember keywords :
Youth, transformation, emergence, awakening, transition.
Because no one awakens suddenly (unless there is an emergency). I don’t. I need time every morning. Then, imagine nature as a slowly awakening sleeper. It does not feel like speeding. It looks outside, and dives again under the blanket. Later, only later, will she finally get up. The question is : will she be an early bird or a late sleeper this year ?
So, what can we read ?
- Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. The hero is young and he discovers his deep nature, learns to connect with nature, and his friend is a candle maker. Perfect for escaping cold !
- The Ginger Tree, by Oswald Wynd, because the heroin builds her life again and again despites obstacles (not melodramatic at all). Sorry for the picture, I don’t have the English version.
- Imbolc, for those interested in Wicca.
- La pédagogie Steiner Waldorf à la maison, by Monique Tedeschi. Not translated in English yet. Sadly.
- Books to organize one’s house and one’s life : zen inspired, A Monk’s Guide to a Clean house and mind, or The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. If you prefer a Northern America approach, Sink Reflections by Maria Cilley.
And can we drink ?
Depending on the weather, we can choose comforting teas, but lighter as those drunk in the heart of winter. OK, in other words ?
- very oxidized, or even roasted, oolongs.
Roasted Alishan oolong
Da hong Pao
- a flowery AND vanilla-tasting (no aroma added) oolong tea :
Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao)
- black teas from Darjeeling or Sri Lanka
And which teaware ?
- Why not a podstakannik (picture below, on the right) ? Glass and metal remind of winter cold as well as spring lightness.
- Or THE perfect mug (ok, it was just by chance that I got it) : flowers and birds on a grey background. Spring delicacy on a winter background.
In short, we are in between : not really winter any more, but not spring yet.
Below, a few lines by Monique Tedeschi, about the time between Candlemas/Imbolc and the spring equinox (personal translation) :
« It is still cold outside, and it still often freezes ; snow can still fall in some places. Outside, birds look everywhere for food and they really need grains, grease and other bread crumbles that are left for them. The soil is soaked, as unattractive. The end of winter is perhaps the most difficult of this season, January and February are often the coldest ones. Winter often seems to stay forever… We are at the heart of its hold. And yet, brightness is greater, and days longer. Many tiny shoots emerge everywhere, and trees and bushes, very slowly, begin to bud. A few dashes of color, here and there : yellow primroses and daffodils, pink and blue hyacinths. Would it be spring coming ? »
A few lines from the book Imbolc :
« When the dark days of winter seem to have gone on forever, the first sing of spring refreshes our souls. It is a promise that winter will not last forever and that warm and fertile days will come again soon. (…) Imbolc is the light at the end of the tunnel, the birth of the new spring. It is a small light, like a candle seen in the distance, because spring is still some distance away. »
And I can’t resist reminding you what Albus Dumbledore says* :
« Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. »
What do you mean, I’m being a bit melodramatic ?
I have to go, my kettle is whistling & my book is calling…
- Albus Dumbledore is Hogwarts’ Director, the school of wizardry where Harry Potter studies.