I'm watching billowy flakes of snow dance down from a sky that yesterday was a blazing blue. Today the cedars that surround my house in the mountains are dancing to a cold wind, and I think I may have imagined that spring had arrived. But I should have known better. You see, the dogwood trees recently sprouted delicate pink and white buds – still tightly wrapped on slim black branches. Here in the Sierra, most people know what the dogwoods know – there is always one good snow after they shoot out their first blossoms.
Despite the winter-like weather, Easter will be celebrated this weekend. It's only right we should be reminded that we'll soon be leaving the fallow winter behind to face a season of growth and renewal. We anticipate the birth of buttery-yellow, fuzzy chicks and fluffy white bunnies, flowers pushing out from slumbering beds, freckled fawns taking their first steps on spindly legs that soon will dance confidently through the forest.
Like all the critters and fauna that surround us, we respond to the cycles of nature and experience the opportunity that comes with the change of season. Humans have acknowledged this relationship for eons – from well before the birth of Christianity that formalized the celebration of Easter. Other ancient groups worshiped the gods and goddesses of nature and gathered at places displaying the perfection of Spring Equinox – think Stonehenge and Mayan monuments. Observing the balance of night and day is woven through human history.
Though Easter is deeply tied to Christianity, the word itself has roots in Pagan history when the Germanic goddess Eostre was celebrated as a symbol of renewal. Somewhere around the 8th century, April was known as Ostarmanod (Easter month in the Germanic calendar). According to one scholar, she was "…divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing."
Ancient cultures worldwide observed the rising of the sun and moon – the time when the darkness of night was equal to the light of day. This balance was regarded as propitious – an opportunity for both nature and humankind to renew, produce bounty, sustain all of life.
Over the centuries, we've embellished the Easter season with beloved symbols - the signature rabbit first appeared in 1722 as a character in a book written by a German doctor. The Easter Hare then started hiding colored eggs outdoors for children to find, and 300 years later, we repeat the ritual.
I remember the excitement of Easter in my multi-generational Catholic family. Saturday's confession of sins and penance given, Easter Sunday's new clothes, the hats that women had to wear when entering the church, the solemn appearance of priests in brocade robes, altar boys dressed like penguins in black and white, kneeling for communion and feeling the 'host' slowing dissolving on my tongue.
I also remember leaving the service and promising myself I'd change my behavior – not torture my little brother. Not talk back to my mother. Tell no lies. Even then, as a child, the promise of Easter was motivating. Christ died for our sins but returned to life as a sign of redemption. I was on board.
We'd come back to our small house, and my brother and I would hunt for eggs and hope for hollow chocolate rabbits. My mother and her mother would be busy in a cramped kitchen cooking a midwest Easter feast and shouting out – "Don’t eat any of that candy – you’ll spoil your appetite! Leave your brother alone, you’ll ruin your nice dress!” By dinner time, I’d have eaten my candy, attacked my brother, and told my mother he’d started the fight – which wasn’t true. So, I’d already told a lie. Essentially broke all my Easter promises within a few hours.
But as adults, Easter brings meaning beyond colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. We are conscious of a radical change in the environment, and it’s a hopeful change. As animals on the planet, we share the rhythms and cycles of our calendar year. In spring, we leave the cold and darkness behind, watch trees turn from bare to bountiful. All around us, life renews and tells us that there is hope for us as well - potential.
That spring brings a positive message for the human spirit is not just a cliché. Mother Nature helps us take part in the transformation to the season of change and growth. We gain about three more hours of light that helps us produce serotonin – a feel-good mood stabilizer that allows us to do more with a better attitude. It’s also the launch of renewal for the rest of the year. We’re surrounded by transformation as life sprouts all around us. Green leaves burst from baren branches. Flowers bloom, babies are born, we are warmed by the sun and filled with hope.
And in case you think this effect is holiday hype – I checked, and it’s not. It’s documented in neuroscience, biology, psychology, and, okay, with a little Sees, Reeses, Cadbury, and Peeps thrown in to sweeten the season.
What is it you want to experience on this annual journey into the light of spring? I’m hoping to harness some optimism to create a big piece of art for the community (more to come about this), let go of Dooms Day thinking, and capture more thoughts to share with you in writing – because you help me realize how thoughtful, resilient and sweet people can be.
Happy Eostre to you and yours -
Thanks again for spending time with me - I love to hear from you and appreciate your time and attention - Tell me what Spring means to you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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