Brigid’s cross, traditional symbol of Brigid and Imbolc
Every year at sunset on January 31, the eve of Imbolc (celebrated on Feb. 1), I light a candle and put out a red cloth for the goddess Brigid to bless. (For more about the tradition of the Brat Bride, go here.) This year, my wife and I are also clearing out our garage.
In Irish pagan tradition, Imbolc is the beginning of spring. The deep cold of winter begins to release its hold on the land and people. As ewes give birth to lambs, fire (sacred to Brigid) and life emerge from darkness and death. Imbolc is a time of sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. A time of initiation.
We live in a beautiful old Craftsman home, built in 1912, that shares a garage with the smaller home next door. I imagine that the two houses were built by members of the same family. The garage, too, is Craftsman style, with characteristic knee braces supporting the overhanging eaves. Our neighbors, whom we love (fortunately), want to finish their half and use it as office and workout space. After over a century, the building slants toward the east a bit; the contractors need to true it up before finishing the interior. The project will require new siding and roof. All of the stuff we’ve been stashing in the garage needs to come out, to stack in a storage pod, give away, or toss.
So many questions! Why do we have five sets of tire chains? (Answer: they are for three different cars, only one of which we still have, plus two duplicates because the garage was so cluttered we couldn’t find them.) Has our five-year-old granddaughter, who will be six when she next visits, outgrown the toys we kept from her dad’s and uncle’s childhoods? (Not all of them.) Does our younger son want the HO train set his dad gave him? (In his 900-square-foot apartment in NYC? No.)
It’s a time of rediscovering, remembering, evaluating what to keep—what is still useful—and what to let go. We’re trying to minimize our impact on the landfill, recycling what we can, giving things away through our neighborhood Buy Nothing page on Facebook.
We gave away the lawnmower that we no longer use. We gave away the huge, heavy pieces of the elaborate snake enclosure that I designed and built to house two beloved cornsnakes until they died several years ago. We gave away the roof rack for kayaks that we can no longer lift over our heads; now we float in ingenious plastic, foldable kayaks that fit inside our car.
At the same time, I am completing work on a memoir. Diving deep into old memories and stories. Here, too, I find both treasures and junk, all of it covered, not in layers of dust, but in layers of emotion. Can I clear away the old feelings as handily as I wield a dust rag? Sometimes. Mostly not.
As I walk into the garage now, I am amazed at how spacious it is. When I complete my memoir and release it to whomever chooses to read it, I hope my mind and heart will feel that spacious. I hope something beautiful and new will enter.
What are you clearing out this year at Imbolc?