Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Celebrating the Return of Spring

Recently some friends and I gathered at my south Minneapolis home to celebrate the end of winter and the return of spring. Our gathering took place less than a week after the spring equinox, and so we celebrated by sharing spring-related poetry, prose, and song . . . and a spring quiz!

Above (from left): Joe, Raul, Walter, Javier, Barry, and Brent – Friday, March 31, 2017.

Right: With my friend Kathleen.

After a time of winter – after a time of grief, of discontent, of mourning, of darkness that is emotional or physical – after such a time, spring comes. It tends to come upon us slowly, subtly, as if it had sent out spies beforehand.

. . . Spring begins not with a kettledrum, but with the small notes of the piccolo. It whispers itself into our awareness, as we begin to notice that it hasn't snowed for a time, that the days seem a little longer, that there is the occasional blue sky. We find ourselves thinking about the garden, and wondering whether the bulbs will emerge again. We decide not to take the crosstown bus today, because it's just warm enough for a good walk to work where, that afternoon, we will crack open the window to finally let in some fresh air. We notice the first crocus in the park and the red breast of the first robin.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
pp. 3-4

Above: Stephanie and Pete – March 31, 2017.

Above: John, Raul, George, Joe, and Brent.

Lovely spring: Beautiful spring!
The woods with vocal welcomes ring,
And we a grateful offering bring
To our God who sends the spring.

– Excerpted from "Welcome Spring" (a Shaker hymn)

Above: Standing at left with (from left) Joe, Raul, and Javier.

Above: Brent, Omar, Walter, and Barry.

Right: With my friend and work colleague Julia.

The awakenings of spring represent an emergence into full life and consciousness. There is a sense of completeness to this particular motion of spring, a sense of wholeness. Stirrings indicate that we are beginning to move out of darkness, hibernation, and stillness, and that something more needs to happen. But awakenings indicate complete movement from sleep to wakefulness, from inattention to attention, from hibernation to participation, from darkness to light. What has been still and quiet is now fully emerged and ready to take up its role in the cycles of life. The actors have stepped onto the stage, and the great drama is about to begin.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
p. 72

Above: Matt, Joan, George, and John.

This is the time of spring's return; the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the earth and the chains of winter are broken. Light and dark are equal: it is a time of balance, when all the elements within us must be brought into a new harmony. The Prince of the Sun stretches out his hand, and Kore, the Dark Maiden, returns from the Land of the Dead, cloaked in the fresh rain, with the sweet scent of desire on her breath. Where They step, the wild flowers appear; as They dance, despair turns to hope, sorrow to joy, want to abundance. May our hearts open with the spring! Blessed be!

Excerpted from The Spiral Dance
p. 187

Left: Pete and Omar – March 31, 2017.

Above: Brent, Walter, Barry, and my housemate Tim.


A Spring Quiz
(Answers in the comments section below)

1. In the southern hemisphere, the first day of spring occurs in what month?

a) August

b) September

c) October

d) November

2. On the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, the sun is directly over the:

a) Tropic of Cancer

b) Tropic of Capricorn

c) Equator

d) Arctic Circle

3. The term “equinox” is defined as:

a) When day and night are equal in length

b) When the sun is furthest from the equator

c) When Earth’s two poles meet

d) None of the above

4. According to folklore, what can we balance on the ground on the first day of spring?

a) A stone

b) An egg

c) A broom

d) A football

5. In North America, which bird is often seen as symbolizing the arrival of spring?

a) Sparrow

b) Blue Jay

c) Robin

d) Cardinal

6. The Japanese celebrate the arrival of spring by hosting viewings of which bloom?

a) Azalia

b) Tulips

c) Cherry Blossoms

d) Lilacs

7. In the United States, which college sport holds its annual national championship tournament in spring?

a) Baseball

b) Hockey

c) Basketball

d) Both b) and c)

8. According to St. Bede the name of the Christian festival of Easter was adopted from an Anglo-Saxon (Old High German) goddess named:

a) Hara

b) Freya

c) Ostara

d) Hretha

9. The attendant spirit animal of this ancient goddess was the:

a) White hart

b) Hare

c) Raven

d) Blackbird

10. What Gaelic festival is held midway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice?

a) Samhain

b) Imbolc

c) Beltane

d) Michaelmas

11. “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” Who is moved by the joys of the season?

a) Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

b) Great Uncle Bulgaria in The Wombles by Elizabeth Beresford

c) Mole in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

d) Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

12. Which is the real quote by Shelley?

a) O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?

b) Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems

c) Awake, thou wintry earth – / Fling off thy sadness!

d) The year’s at the spring / And day’s at the morn

13. How many hares are there in the parlor and the dining room?

Above: Javier, Barry, Walter, Stephanie, Brent, Omar, and John – Hare House, March 31, 2017.

Above: A view of Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis – Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

There are not days in the whole round year more delicious than those which often come to us in the latter half of April. On these days one goes forth in the morning, and finds an Italian warmth brooding over all the hills, taking visible shape in a glistening mist of silvered azure, with which mingles the smoke from many bonfires. The sun trembles in his own soft rays, till one understands the old English tradition, that he dances on Easter Day.

But days even earlier than these, in April, have a charm – even days that seem raw and rainy, when the sky is dull and a bequest of March wind lingers, chasing the squirrel from the tree and the children from the meadows.

There is a fascination in walking through these bare early woods – there is a pause of preparation, winter's work is so cleanly and thoroughly done. Everything is taken down and put away; throughout the leafy arcades the branches show no remnant of last year, save a few twisted leaves of oak and beech, a few empty seed vessels of the tardy witch-hazel, and a few gnawed nutshells dropped coquettishly by the squirrels into the crevices of the bark. All else is bare, but prophetic: buds everywhere, the whole splendor of the coming summer concentrated in those hard little knobs on every bough; and clinging here and there among them a brown, papery chrysalis, from which shall yet wave the superb wings of the Luna moth.

. . . But we are lingering too long, perhaps, with this sweet April of smiles and tears. It needs only to add, that all her traditions are beautiful. Ovid says well, that she was not named from aperire, to open, as some have thought, but from Aphrodite, goddess of beauty. April holds Easter-time, St. George's Day, and the Eve of St. Mark's. She has not, like her sister May in Germany, been transformed to a verb and made a synonym for joy – "Deine Seele maiet den trüben Herbst" – but April was believed in early ages to have been the birth-time of the world. According to the Venerable Bede, the point was first accurately determined at a council held in Jerusalem about A.D. 200, when, after much profound discussion, it was finally decided that the world's birthday occurred on Sunday, April 8 – that is, at the vernal equinox and the full moon. But April is certainly the birth-time of the season, at least, if not of the planet. Its festivals are older than Christianity, older than the memory of man.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Excerpted from "April Days" (1861)

Again it is spring
Look again it is spring
Time again for birds to sing;
Winter's gray now is past
Vibrant green is here at last.

Gentle rains usher in
Signs of life and joy within;
With each passing day we know
Gone for now are ice and snow.

Now the soil soaks in rain
Green adorns the earth so plain;
With each bud that bursts in bloom
Life springs from its winter tomb.

– John Fagan

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Spring: "Truly the Season for Joy and Hope"
Spring's Wintry Surprise
Considering Resurrection
Let the Greening Begin . . .
A Springtime Prayer
In the Footsteps of Spring

Images: Michael J. Bayly and friends.

1 comment:

Michael J. Bayly said...

Spring Quiz Answers:

1. b
2. c
3. a
4. b or c
5. c
6. c
7. d
8. c
9. b
10. c
11. c
12. a