Spring is a Time for Awakening

Maple ree flowers and leaves 1Though I am fonder of some than of others, for me every season has its unique blessings. Autumn has always been a favorite of mine because I like the crispness of the air and the vivid colors that paint the scenery. However, the cycle of the seasons produces different feelings in everyone and we all have our favorites. It may be that as a poet I am more sensitive to or pay more attention to the change of the seasons because I feel it so keenly. Winter for me is a time for rest and often for extra sleep. The dark hours encourage it. During the winter, like the bare branched trees and the hibernating creatures, I am less active and more inclined to quieter occupations.

It’s easy to sleep late in the winter. The light does not come through the curtains until morning is well advanced. Chilly weather does not encourage leaving warm covers for frigid floors. Yet as the light hours grow longer and the dark ones shorter, the day calls to me sooner and sooner. Reluctant as I may be to get up from my bed, it becomes less alluring to linger than to rise into the day. Even as the trees and the birds greet the brightening weeks, with the spring, something in me begins to wake up.

Winter encourages me to make soups and stews. My pantry and refrigerator are stocked with warming foods. With the advance of spring I think more about salads and lighter meals. I toss the cold weather recipes that I have accumulated yet not found time to make and clip out more recent ones geared to fresher, less sturdy meal components. Now that I can see it, when I look around at the winter dust on shelves and surfaces, I feel more diligent about eliminating it. Somehow when I can’t see it, it is so much easier to ignore. Now it no longer is.

When I was out and about, my eyes had become accustomed to bare trees sleeping in the cold. All winter I admired the still shapes of the bare branches against the sky. Now as the trees blossom and leaf out, they seem to be dancing with joy. The spring breezes flutter the trees’ new emerging clothing as they dress themselves in their fresh spring wardrobes. When I go about my errands, my heart sings along with the turning wheels of my car.

When I used visit my daughter in Italy, she would come into my room of a morning to waken me from my jet-lagged sleep. She would open the curtains and turn to me as I clung to my pillow. “Wakey, wakey,” she’d say with a smile. Finally I’d open my eyes and greet the day, glad to be awake and alive, ready for a new adventure. Spring feels like that. It is time to pursue the new, the untried, the innovative. Time to put away the darker, heavier winter clothes and put on light, bright colors and fabrics, to free the feet of boots and don sandals. Time to awaken to the new season and to rejoice in it.

Dust is Visible in the New Light of Spring

Spring water           One day years ago as a relatively new bride I returned to the apartment I shared with my then husband and our baby to find my father sweeping the rug.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Cleaning the rug,” he replied.

“Oh,” I said. I didn’t have a vacuum and didn’t know any other way to clean the rug. Now I did. I had never seen anyone sweep a rug before. My dear father smiled at me and suggested that perhaps Santa might provide me with a vacuum. I don’t remember if he did or not, but my father bought me my first washing machine some years later. He was a generous man. Also, I never saw him do any cleaning in the home I grew up in, so his sweeping was a great revelation to me. I have never learned to love housework but I have learned to do it more efficiently–except for dusting.

While I welcome spring and the new light it brings, I also recognize the need to dust. The new brighter light coming from a sun now, in the Northern Hemisphere, higher in the sky shines on all the surfaces in our apartment that have been neglected over the winter. Dusting is not my specialty. I have a tendency to get impatient or careless and damage or knock over items on shelves and surfaces. Stephen is far better at dusting than I, and thankfully he is willing to do it—in his own time. Sometimes this means waiting a bit.

Spring cleaning has a long, honorable history. I am thankful I do not have to haul my rugs out, drape them over a clothesline and beat them with a rug beater. These are now antiques. I remember them as being woven out of wood, like baskets, in the shape of several round circles intertwined. They had handles and were sufficiently sturdy to raise the dust from the rug and into the air to land heaven knows where—hopefully not back on the rug.

Before central heating or cleaner electricity and oil as opposed to wood fireplaces and coal furnaces, a good housewife washed down room walls every spring to remove grime from smoky fires and particles of soot delivered from heating vents. I remember coal being delivered to a coal bin in the cellar every fall. Now an oil burner has replaced that coal furnace. Cobwebs too needed to be removed. Windows had to be washed. Ammonia was in common use for cleaning them in days gone by. Horrid stuff! Now a vinegar/water spray does the job.

I am grateful for my vacuum cleaner, for the size of my apartment that needs much less work to clean than either of my past houses, and for a helpful husband who is willing to clean with me. The only thing I remember my dad cleaning was the silver. He polished it all himself because my mother would not. It is also true that we often had a cleaning person come; yet sadly it was my mother’s nature never to be satisfied no matter how well the job was done. I am grateful both that it’s not a hundred years ago, and that spring is on the way.

 

Celebrating the New Season of Life

Peacae Village Forsythia 1When I was a young child Easter was an exciting time. I got to wear new clothes and a big straw hat. I remember one with a pretty grosgrain ribbon around it. The ribbon hung down in the back and in my memory it is blue. At Christmas and Easter we attended my father’s church as well as my mother’s. I liked his best. Not only did they sing hymns but also at Easter geraniums lined the church driveway for children like me to take home after the service. Then we would go to a relative’s for lunch and there would be candy after dessert. My mother did not approve of candy so we seldom had it at home unless someone brought it. That was my Easter celebration.

Easter and spring are synonymous. From time immemorial people have found ways to celebrate the coming of the warmer, lighter days and the passing of the dark, cold ones. When primitive cultures worshipped personalities that embodied seasons, they honored their gods and goddesses of spring, summer, fall and winter. Celebrations throughout the world centering on spring, especially in cold climates, had much in common with today’s Christian Easter.

The rising of Christ from the dead ends the period of self-deprivation or fasting known as Lent. The rebirth of the garden and the growth of new life is echoed in the Christian Easter observance. In the days before refrigeration and supermarkets, because the garden and the fields were bare and brown Lent was observed willy-nilly. In the cold climates all there was to eat were stored, dried vegetables, roots and grains. Nothing green was available. The growth of the first plants was something to be hailed as individuals foraged and found fresh vegetable matter to eat after the long winter months.

There was great cause to rejoice in the coming of the longer light and the warmer days. Different cultures evolved their own observances centering around their own deities and beliefs. Many of these customs have come down to us and are part of our observances today. The ways we celebrate our Easter, similar to our Christmas celebrations have become a conglomeration of the various cultures from which we derive our present day civilization. However they are all a reflection of the original reasons to celebrate: the coming of a time of growth and renewal after a period of hardship and sacrifice.

These customs all contain the affirmation that growth and change will proceed uninterrupted, and that the ultimate harvest will be a good one. The bunny that brings the Easer basket is Germanic in origin, a favorite of the goddess of spring. The symbolic eggs too come from there, as well as from other places representing symbols of new life. When you buy marshmallow Peeps or chocolate eggs, you echo the innocence of that beginning. The purchase of new clothes too is symbolic as is the Easter feast common to most families. What seems meaningful is not how we celebrate but that as from time immemorial we acknowledge the wonderful coming of warmer weather and brighter days for all.

Spring Is Making Its Way

Blue flowers and stone wallWhen spring comes, like the creatures in the woods and fields, I feel as though I am beginning to wake up after a time of hibernation. I want to get out doors and spend more time in the light. I welcome the brightness that comes in through the windows even though it also shows the accumulation of dust that is so easy to miss in the dimmer light of winter. I get out of bed more eagerly, most likely because the sky is brighter when I do. Spring also brings me memories of what it was like for me when I was a child and the seasons were more defined by what we ate as well as what we did.

Growing up I spent much of my time out of doors. My mother believed the fresh air was good for me. As well she wanted me to be active rather than sit with my nose in a book. Whenever the weather was relatively decent, neither raining, snowing nor windy and cold, I was sent out doors to play. I grew up in the country on a property that belonged to my great aunt Alice, with a good bit of land to it. Thus I could wander to my heart’s content in the fields and marshes that surrounded her large house and our cottage.

When the spring came and the ice receded from the marsh, I would trek about looking for interesting objects that the sea might have delivered during a winter storm. Once I discovered a large log, perhaps three feet or more in diameter that formed an interesting place to play. Another time I found a pane of glass with a lovely blue design on it that was yellow on the underneath. Thinking back I can see it still. It was probably once part of a picture frame. Sadly one day it disappeared, as did the log I liked so much.

Spring also meant there was more daylight time after school to play out of doors. As I wandered around, I made up all sorts of stories in which I imagined myself having some kind of an adventurous part. Although I had no one to play with I was good company for myself, and my active imagination helped me to create all sorts of fun. I was alone but never lonely. Being on our own property I was completely safe as well. It seemed to me that I had a little kingdom all my own to enjoy. Spring brought new opportunities for adventures as well as the chance to be by myself with no one to tell me what to do.

My brother lives in the house we grew up in and whenever I visit with him I marvel at how much smaller the property seems to me now. Too, the days seem far shorter than they did when I was a child, when Saturdays especially seemed to hold endless hours in which to enjoy myself. I greeted the advent of spring with joy because it meant I could get out and explore the surrounding fields and marsh in search not only of adventure but also of signs of the new growth that spring would bring to share with me.

A Sip of Spring in January

spring-water

The school I attended as a child had no weeks of vacation between Christmas and March. I had little to look forward to except an occasional snow day or being home sick with a cold. Not that I liked being home sick—my mother was not one to allow me to “enjoy poor health” as she put it. This meant I was confined to bed without much to do and no pampering. The best I could expect was an opportunity to listen to the radio. Television didn’t arrive in our household until I was twelve. The winter days were dreary with school and homework. I didn’t like skiing and skating was no fun so I spent my free time indoors reading. The advent of spring at least meant I could spend more time outside.

There is a deceptively warm period in the first month of the year called the January thaw. It usually comes at the end of the month, but sometimes earlier. It is the opening note of a long prelude to spring. Sadly, it raises hopes too soon dashed. February sets in, the snow falls, the cold descends, and winter reminds us that we have a long way to go. The upside is that at least the days are longer and brighter as the sun grows stronger and shines from higher in the sky. The burgeoning light keeps us apprised of spring’s actual advent.

Expectations often create disappointment. However it is difficult to avoid having them. The anticipation that is the creator of my expectations is what happens when I yearn toward something that is just out or reach or even beyond my control, like spring. This habit begins in childhood. Once we outgrow the present moment mindset of our early years, we are vulnerable to it. For instance, when the circus was coming to town it was a big event in my young life. My grandmother always took me and every year I loved it.

The difficulty with anticipation, especially when one is an adult, is that it can suck the juice out of the actual event. A few years ago Stephen and I took a friend’s two children to a local circus in a town nearby. Based on my memories of Barnum and Bailey, I had unrealistic expectations of the little circus and did not enjoy it nearly as much as I would have otherwise. On the other hand the two children we took had a wonderful time. Unexpectedly, my enjoyment ended up being about that rather than about the performances.

Today in the news I saw that the circus of my childhood—Barnum and Bailey, will be no more. This may have started I suppose when they released the elephants and now they are disbanding completely. I wonder if those who like me once anticipated the arrival of the circus will be disappointed. I haven’t been to a Barnum and Bailey performance in many years myself, however I have my memories. Thankfully I can sip those memories whenever I wish. That’s the blessing of memories, like food in the pantry or the refrigerator they are available when I wish to reach for them. Memories of spring, however, cannot compare to its actual advent, and that I eagerly await.

Tasha Halpert

 

A Very Special Easter Bunny

I have many memories associated with Easter, dating back to my childhood and continuing on through the years between then and now. In the days when ladies wore hats to church, as a child I wore a straw hat with a wide brim and a ribbon tied around it that hung down my back. My father would always buy my mother and me corsages, a gardenia for me and an orchid for her. I loved the scent of the gardenia. However, there was no Easter basket, candy, or hiding of eggs. After church we usually went to my Great Aunt Alice’s for Easter dinner.

When I was married and had two young daughters of my own I used to sew Easter outfits for them–little spring coats and pretty dresses. We always hid candy eggs around the living room. When my daughters were old enough to do some independent purchasing, they planned a special surprise for their parents. They walked to the local candy store and spent their own money on Easter candy, although not for themselves. Then on Easter morning they got up early and created an Easter egg hunt for their parents.

I will always remember coming down into the kitchen and seeing the foil wrapped eggs gleaming from their hiding places. Then two little voices called out “Surprise!” Bright in my memory are the two dear faces wreathed in smiles. “The Parent Easter Bunny came and hid eggs for you to find,” they told their father and me. What fun it was to discover where the eggs were hidden. What a pleasure it was for them as well to create this wonderful experience. It continued for some years, and each Easter their father and I looked forward to it.

Time and tide move us onward. More children came along to hunt for eggs and enjoy the Easter celebrations. The girls went off to college and began their own lives. Later on when they were married and grown, one lived too far away to celebrate at Easter with us. However the other lived close enough to drive over. We would go to a very special candy maker in the vicinity. Together we picked out candy for the grandchildren, and she took it home for the Easter Bunny to give them on Easter morning. Although I didn’t get to see their faces when they discovered their gifts, I had the pleasure of participating in their happiness.

Throughout the Western hemisphere, Easter is in part a religious holiday and in part a celebration of the coming of spring. Since before recorded history human beings have honored this time. Archeologists have found red dyed eggs dedicated to the German goddess of spring in Europe. There are many traditions from every where in Europe that are part of the way we celebrate today. Most spiritual paths and religions have their own spring celebrations. The dear Easter Bunny is a precious reminder to us that the days have grown longer, the trees will be budding, and life emerges joyfully in the new season.

Laura and diana 3The Parent Bunnies are all grown up.

Spring Mood Swings

It as been my experience that many, if not most people would like to believe that spring consists entirely of balmy breezes and blossoming trees, along with pleasant showers that bring May flowers. Perhaps this is only their wishful thinking, yet it seems to prevail among people with whom I have casual conversations. A few days of delightfully warm weather and they are sure that spring has arrived. Then when the weather turns cold, as it may for at least six or more of the weeks of Spring, they say that winter has returned. Yet nature knows best. The cycle of gradual warming and cooling allows for trees, plants and animals to partake in their awakening process at their natural speed.

What people may not realize is that were it to become summery all at once, the natural world of plants, animals and even people would not be equipped to deal with that enormous influx of energy. Try plunging your hands into hot water when they are severely chilled. It’s painful. Victims of frostbite must be warmed up gradually. Our bodies need to get used to the change of the seasons also. Spring foods like asparagus and rhubarb are good for that.

It would be nice to think of the season of spring as entirely warm and pleasant. Yet it actually begins on the Equinox with equal hours of light and darkness. The gradual lengthening of light awakens the life energy in plants and animals. The hours of daylight have been increasing perceptibly since the beginning of February. Now we have reached the actual balance between the hours of dark and light. From now on, light is in the ascendance.

Living as we do in a world where electricity can turn night into day, we may not be as aware of the nurturing quality of darkness. I find I enjoy the dark hours as much as I do the light. While I love the light and appreciate the lengthening days of spring, I also remember with pleasure the snugness of the long winter’s nights and the coziness of the covers when it is dark outside. Balance is good. The ups and downs of spring weather remind us of that. I am glad I live where the seasons bring an obvious change. As I drive I smile at the swelling, pinkish buds of the as yet bare trees as they reach toward the sun and its warmth.

The relief we feel when the sun warms us is surely increased by our natural reaction to the bitter cold. The grief we feel as skies cloud and chilly breezes blow reminds us of what we seem to have lost. Yet as a wise person has said, spring brings hope. Even during the days it seems to retreat we can maintain that hope by acknowledging how we much cherish the longer hours of daylight as well as the slow but steady increase in the pleasing warmth that swells the buds of the trees and urges the spring flowers open.

Spring flowers 2 for copy