I’m making plans to celebrate the Spring Equinox with my family. The equal length of day and night prompts us to consider balance, and the greening of the land also calls for joy and play. Below are five ways my family revels in the beginning of spring in Austin, Texas.
1. Create a Spring Equinox altar. We include living herbs, flowers, bunnies, nests, eggs, and seeds. Sometimes we bring the signs of spring inside; other times we create an impromptu outdoor altar. Last weekend during a trip to Mt. Bonnell, the highest point in Austin at 775 feet above sea level, my children gathered soil, twigs, and several different kinds of seeds into piles on top of a limestone slab. Whether building the altar inside or out, we look to the natural environment for inspiration. What’s blooming? Have we seen any nests or young animals? What colors do we see in the sky, in budding leaves, in the water and the soil?
2. Plant seeds. I include flower seed packets in my children’s Easter baskets. Sometimes we’re enterprising and start the seeds in hollowed out egg shells filled with soil. Last year, my kids simply ran around our backyard pushing morning glory and sunflower seeds into the soil with their bare thumbs. Going outside and seeing which ones sprouted and took root, and which ones did not, was an ongoing family project as spring progressed. My children saw first-hand that seeds need sunlight, water, and specific soil conditions in order to flourish.
3. Dye and hunt eggs. Eggs are symbols of birth and fertility in cultures around the world; plus they’re good food and fun to decorate. I like to draw on hard-boiled eggs with a wax crayon, or wrap rubber bands around them to make stripes, before dunking them in dye. Because it’s usually fairly warm in Texas in the spring, and because we have fire ants, I hide plastic eggs for my children. Once they’ve found and emptied the eggs, we fill some with pebbles or beans to make shakers, and we re-hide and seek the rest for days after.
4. Build fairy houses. Walking the Zilker Faerie Homes & Gardens Trail at Zilker Botanical Garden in downtown Austin is one of my favorite events of Spring. Local families, school groups, gardeners, and architects sign up to build houses in February, and the trail opens in March. Walking the Faerie Trail with my children always inspires a flurry of fairy house construction once we get home. Because artists need constraints, the rules: Use only natural, found objects, and not human-made materials. Try not to disturb living, growing plants and flowers. They’re still using all their parts.
Now, this is the Humanistic Paganism blog, where few if any of us believe in fairies as incarnate beings. Last year while he was building a fairy house in the front yard, my son stopped to ask me whether fairies are real. “No,” I replied, “But it’s fun to pretend, isn’t it?” He smiled and happily went back to cobbling rocks together into a structure that might provide appropriate shelter for an imaginary diminutive winged person. So I invite you to avoid overthinking it. Make space to play, and do something fun to welcome the spirits of spring.
In Spring, the Central Texas Hills erupt into a riot of wildflowers: wind flowers, wood sorrel, bluebonnets, paint brush, prairie verbena, primroses, Mexican hat flowers, Texas star flowers, and firewheels, among many others. My family and I like to walk the trails at nearby McKinney Falls to soak up all the scents and colors. Our neighborhood parks put on a good show even closer to home. The Mexican free-tailed bats that make their summer home in Austin begin returning from Mexico this time of year. Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-skinned hawks leave Austin for more northerly summer homes, while flycatchers, swallows, and summer tanagers are arriving. What’s blooming? Which birds are arriving? Which are leaving? Which animals are nesting and raising young? I like to take a long, mindful walk outside to find out.
What’s blooming where you live? How do you celebrate both the balance and the ebullience of Spring?
Anna Walther lives in Austin, Texas, where she practices place-based paganism, by honoring ancestors, observing the movements of the sun and the moon, collecting local stories, visiting trees, creeks and springs, and learning about the plants, animals, and minerals with which she shares her home. Anna is a student nurse, and she attends First Unitarian Universalist Church with her husband and children.