Friday, November 11, 2022

Friday Ramble - Edgy and Chthonic

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 first of this week's words (edge) has been around for some time, dating in its present form from the tenth century at the very latest. 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 akmÄ“ meaning "point". Way back there in the beginning times (or at least a few thousand years before the common era commenced) is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form ak- meaning "sharp".

The storm tossed eastern Ontario 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 is falling asleep, 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 examples of a blade smith's art. For all the early winter emptiness, frost and morning sunlight change the landscape into something rich and elegant and inviting: glittering fronds artfully curved and waving in the fields, milkweed sculpted into pleasing shapes, bare trees on the hills twinkling like stars, the edges of blackberry leaves rosy and sparkling with frost crystals.

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

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