We've been labouring in the Night Kitchen for the last few weeks. Like Maurice Sendak's little Mickey, we fell through the distressing darkness and have been teaching ourselves to face it unafraid. This is not unusual for Northern Folk in the Depths of Winter...but the darkness and extreme cold have been made more challenging by our plumber's "radio silence." Despite a hefty portion of our homegrown pork resting in his freezer, our plumber has not come through on his promise to "have you all set in your new place by Christmas."
For the last few weeks we have been getting in touch with our homesteading ancestors. In other words, we've been living without plumbing. It's not so bad in the grand scheme of things. The toilet in the old farmhouse is marginally functional, so long as we keep the space heater going in there and bring along a bucket of water (filled at one of our frost-free field hydrants) to flush with. Every few days, we take a basket of dirty dishes over to our neighbor's house and wash them there. I can manage a shower in the old house, too, as long as I do it quickly to avoid inhaling too much mold. Some days are harder than others, but I remind myself that we are blessed to have a house at all, and even without plumbing our standard of living far exceeds that of so many other of the world's folk.
There are ways to have fun with the situation. We have discovered that the unfinished bathroom of the new house makes an excellent fridge. The lumber waiting to be transformed into a studwall now serves as our fridge shelves, bedecked with a jolly row of butter boxes, yoghurt containers, little cheese bricks and jugs of milk. We don't have a bathroom--we have a dairy shed, a little milkhouse for the farm! Even if the butter, cheese, yoghurt and milk don't come from our very own cows, we can take pleasure in their careful storage and joyful use.
'Tis the season for such celebratory thinking. Today is Imbolc, one of the four great turning points in the old Celtic calendar. The old name refers to the milk of ewes, and it was a traditional seasonal celebration of milk, lactating animals, dairywomen, midwives, and all things creative and motherly. Holy Bridgit--first a goddess, later a saint--was honored as the protector of all new life, including baby animals, the work of blacksmiths and poetry! In the most severe stretch of late winter, when food and firewood dwindle and bodies weaken from confinement and cold, these creative gifts were blended with the blessing of fresh milk to help our ancestors survive.
We celebrated boldly last night by, um, milking our credit card. After years of dreaming, I finally have a laptop computer of my own on which to write. Winter may still hold us in her icy grip, but the fires of creativity are well-stoked and ready to burn with life-giving and sustaining warmth. In the winter darkness, let us share our stories and recall the promise that light and warmth shall return. Let us stoke the fire of hope and feast on its sweet promise, like the small boy in the company of the Night Kitchen's jolly trinity. Let us honor Bridgit with all our creative gifts, and toast her with a well-filled glass...of milk!