Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Ramble - Edge

A strange, liminal time of the year is this, for the old Celtic year has passed away, and we stand on the forward edge of a brand new year, in the north a chilling contraption of fallen leaves and frozen earth, short days, darkness, frost and and wind.

The word edge has been around forever, dating at the very latest from the tenth century. We have it through the Middle English egge, the Old English ecg and the Old Germanic ecke, all meaning "corner". It is kin to the Latin acer meaning "sharp", and the Greek akmē meaning "point", and at the root of all these forms is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ak- meaning "sharp".

The storm tossed highlands seem empty in November. Migratory birds have (for the most part) departed for warmer climes. Most of our wild and furry "year round" residents are in deep hibernation now; the fertile earth and her life giving waters are freezing up, even as we watch with our collars turned up.

On trips into the woods, long shadows fall across our trail, and their edges are as sharp as the finest craftings of the blade smith's art. For all the early winter emptiness, frost and morning sunlight change the Two Hundred Acre Wood into something rich and elegant and inviting: glittering fronds artfully curved and waving in the fields, milkweed sculpted into pleasing shapes, bare trees twinkling like stars, the edges of blackberry leaves rosy and sparkling with frost crystals.

November always seems chthonic to me. That engaging word with its bewildering arrangement of vowels and consonants springs from the Greek khthonios, meaning "of the earth", and it's usually employed in describing subterranean matters and deities of the underworld.  When we use chthonic to describe something, we are focusing on what is deeper or within, rather than that which is apparent at first glance or resting on the surface. Implicit in the adjective are notions of rest, sleep, fertility and rebirth - mortality and abundance coexisting and enfolding each other in a deep embrace.

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