Happy spring! When I look at the windswept landscape outside my window with its hillocks of dirty snow slowly melting into patches of green dotted with egg shaped pelts of ice, I see the butt end of winter. To aid my faltering imagination, I head to Trader Joe’s to buy daffodils flown over from England, to grace my dining room table and shore up my hopes of blossoms to come.
In the Near East spring equinox has been an important ceremonial time for millennia from ancient Sumeria to modern day Iran, where Nowruz the Persian New Year, a Zoroastrian celebration of the renewed power of the sun, is still celebrated today. Pagans have named this holiday, Ostara, which roughly derives from Eostre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of the dawn. The Christian period of Lent is ongoing at this time and suggests the wisdom of taking time for self-examination and reflection. Lent in fact comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten which means spring.
Equinox brings to mind a time of balance with its days of equal light and dark. If we combine the ideas of balance and self-reflection, we might ask where balance lies in our lives. Even as my days continue to be overcommitted, I dream of solitude. I retired from a full time job nine years ago, but not from working. My work life if anything has become richer with the freedom to take on various part time jobs and learn new things. But, I’m growing ill at ease with striving as I traverse the downward slope of my 60s. My soul like Whitman’s spider is launching filament after filament out of itself, gossamer threads seeking an anchor hold in eternity. I long for the spaciousness of solitude with time to listen, to clear spaces within to make room for spirit, and build a virtual altar to the goddess. I don’t want to grow old without growing wise. My aging body is a visual reminder of life’s term limits, and I don’t want to use up all my strength in work. I want to leave hours of each day open for the pursuit of joy.
Lent is a time of cleansing and purification to create space for new growth, just as spring equinox is a time to clean up the garden and remove the detritus of last year’s growing season to prepare for the planting ahead. As spring rolls around, I do not want to squander its precious life force, but use it to nurture what is most precious to me.
My intention this spring is to plant a seed of hope that my dream of solitude can manifest itself in my life in the coming year. Thomas Merton writes that the ears that can hear the words of divinity are hidden within our hearts, “and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain solitude” (Thoughts on Solitude, xi). Goddess, lead me into the silence for a while so that I can hear your voice and dance to your rhythms.
We hold a collective yearning for rebirth, for spring. What will help each of us bring forth new life? What is now hidden beneath the surface of our psyches that is pushing its way into the light of consciousness? How can we each use this returning life force for our personal growth? And beyond that, how can we combine our efforts with those of others to face the dark, fear-mongering, rhetoric of our politicians? A political landscape that seemed solidly progressive has been shaken to its core. Daily news has become an addictive reality show that keeps us on the edge of terror.
While visiting the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, I was shown a humble well in the middle of a cow pasture. Two other women and I cleared the well which was clogged with debris, blessed the spontaneous flow of water that bubbled up from the ground, and made an offering to the goddess Brighid. No sooner had the water begun to flow again than the cows began to move toward the well, and we made a hasty retreat. Our hands had become Brighid’s hands as we made her water available to her creatures. How can our actions clear a spring from which others can drink?
We need to work together, and open our hearts to the deep transformative and regenerative energy of the goddess in both her light and dark aspects to sustain life and resist tyranny. We are each one voice in a large circle of humanity; may the song we bring to its chorus be as pure and true as the bird song that will soon rise to hail the dawn.
Take some time this day to do something that brings you joy, so that you may store up beauty to feed your soul to make it dance like Wordsworth’s daffodils and create bliss for your solitude.
Variegated daffodils for all the many colored springs that have come before and enriched our lives.