February 2, Candlemas Day:
half your wood and half your hay.
Half the winter has passed,
we will sup in the light of day!

Shirley Jones, 90, stacks wood on January 11, 2021, at her home in Buckfield. Jones had four cords of split wood delivered for the following winter. “I have plenty of time. When I’m tired, I go home. It will be good and dry next fall,” he said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal, File

Forget the usual groundhog presentation and its shadow test – as the old saying goes, February 2, Candlemas Day, it’s all about the pantry.

It’s about whether we’ll have enough. Here on the Seasonal Continental Divide you look at the western slope and wonder if you have enough resources to reach the Spring Coast.. There will be no more harvest. Have you stored enough firewood? Will the cattle have their hay? Timing is all about anticipation and our concept of “enough is enough”.

Wood and hay are the benchmarks of a bygone era: practical, agrarian and fundamental to the survival of farmers and ranchers in the northern hemisphere. However, even us non-farmers should evaluate the pantry. Enough fuel for warmth and sustenance during the second act of winter? What does that oil tank gauge look like, let alone this week’s #2 fuel oil price?

What other types of fuel and food do we draw? No, my wood stove will not go hungry. Yes, half of the wood crate is empty – however, half is full. Looks like the mice will get enough too. They enjoy mid-level life amidst my logs, as revealed by their half-gnawed acorns, uncovered as I bring wood inside. Their nests of ragged grass also hold. I hope they haven’t infiltrated my cozy domain. I like limits.

My imaginary horses and ruminating cows are comfortably grazing food for thought. There’s always enough. But I’m taking inventory of my current pantry and frozen blueberries from last summer. Am I stocked enough to get to the ice, or whatever you’re using as winter’s boundary and spring’s starting line? Blueberries are my go-to solar energy, a concentrated nugget from sunny August days stored like amethyst fruit in amber, waiting to be comforted by the cold in pies, pancakes and muffins. Near the wood stove, of course. Enough? Still to be determined. One creature’s store of acorns is another’s blueberry is another’s hay. Consider the appetite and size of the creature.

These are only literal provisions. Consider the figurative pantry we build and spend as we inhabit the season of forethought and hindsight — and test both. We look back to supply and forward to use and replenish, an equation that must balance. The solution is just enough, a moving target.

Winter draws us indoors, the season with sharp lines of demarcation between indoors and outdoors; closed windows; the season of torpor and hibernation and contemplative restoration; of nostalgia and observation, watching that frozen outdoor landscape for signs of waning cold and snow; ice; of buds and returning songbirds.

So we are halfway through the work of our hibernation, observing our inner and emotional pantries. While keeping warm and sharing all that hay, literally or figuratively, with our “cattle,” we did something restorative. What are the wood and blueberries of our inner lives? Everyone to his own tastes. A string or two of books will do for me. One man’s woodpile is another man’s neglected reading pile.

Yes, spring and summer will come – it is a certainty, thanks to celestial mechanics – and the resumption of the storage of wood and hay for next winter. The sun is back north, where it will also warm the blueberry moors and the next annual ring on our next Christmas tree. But for now, we’re throwing another log on the fire and mixing up another batch of muffins; sip tea with satisfaction and longing, and count the extra minutes of sunshine this week. The reading stack still casts a long shadow, I’m afraid. Enough said.

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