[Image:The Salk Institute in La Jolla is named after Jonas Salk, creator of the polio vaccine, the institute was designed by Louis Kahn and built in the 1960s. The design has two symmetrical buildings divided by a courtyard with an interesting water fountain — a river of life running through the centre of the courtyard. On the autumnal and vernal equinox, the sun rises and sets along this water channel.]
Here at the beginning of March, it is finally obvious that the Sun is coming back. The sunset has pushed back a full hour, and there is still light in the sky at 6:30.
The drought hasn’t left us here in California this year, despite some encouraging storms early on. The mild winter has meant that already daffodils and narcissus bloom, and fruit trees burst into color. Willows budded out along the creeks in January. Such beauty is tainted by what it portends—a planet warming, and fast—but it’s lovely to be able to sit outside again comfortably, to breathe the sexy perfume of the young spring flowers.
We have come around again to the time of renewal.
My wheel of the year terms the Vernal Equinox “High Spring”, as it is the climax of the resurgent green Earth of my region; after Beltane, the lush grasses of the hills will begin to fade to the tawny gold they wear all summer and fall. It is a time of hopefulness and new energy, of youthful enterprise and industry.
It is a time for believing that this time, we have a chance to do it better.
The Spring Sabbath has always been a challenge for me. It is a time for celebrating the innocence of childhood…but mine, regrettably, didn’t have much of that. It asks me to trust, to hope, to embrace with enthusiasm, to laugh from the belly. With the world as it is, those things can be hard to do.
Yet here: hyacinth is blooming with heady scent. Here: each camellia is perfect; plum trees are clouds of pink. Warmer, longer days say winter is past. And last weekend I found myself scurrying around the halls of Pantheacon with a giggling 13-month old, having a great time.
Put it down, Mark. Put it down for awhile, and be light. Be happy.
High Spring is a time to remember that no matter what the circumstances, there is always opportunity for joy, for the appreciation of beauty. That there is always something to inspire with childlike wonder. That there is always a new chance to try again. And if anything, that efforts carried forward with joy are far more likely to succeed than those conducted with a wintry weariness.
So speaks High Spring to me. It says, have a light heart, and try again.
We have Atheopagan traditions for this Sabbath. We invite friends and their children over to dye eggs (we use Ukrainian psanky dyes, which are incredibly concentrated and vivid), and then hold a short ritual in which we plant wildflower seeds in tiny pots, making wishes for the coming growth cycle. Also, there is Easter candy to go with the eggs, in baskets filled with real grass; the ritual leader skips around the circle, casting Jelly Bellies and dark chocolate kisses into participants’ baskets.
And then we play children’s board games, like Mousetrap and Candyland. I like to serve sparkling wine, too—there’s something springy about it to me. Not to the children, of course.
High Spring tells us to be of good cheer, for there is hope. Life is returning, and wondrous things yet wait beneath the ground unseen.
It begins with a giggle:
The tiniest white tendril reaching from the secret soil
Like a child’s laugh, the purr of a cat and then
Raising, greening leaves peal across the meadows,
Carpet even what was once severe, sere,
Frowning brown in summer’s dry thatch,
A deep belly rumble of soaring chlorophyll
Spreading wanton leaves, dangling perfumed sex
Climbing to nod and wave come and get me,
Brazen to the skip of children gathering posies
Bees lumbering slow in the crisp morning air
You, and I, perhaps, gone down to the stream
To lay down in that place, screened by waving rye
And the laughter of the stream gurgling out like a baby’s delight
Playing with our playthings as we do, exploring
The whole world green and gripped with the howl of it:
Spring come at last.
Mark Green is a writer, thinker, poet, musician and costuming geek who works in the public interest sector, primarily in environmental policy and ecological conservation. He lives in Sonoma County on California’s North Coast with his wife Nemea and Miri, the Cat of Foulness. For more information on Atheopaganism, visit Atheopaganism.wordpress.com, or the Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/godlessheathens.21.