For me as a kid living in the concrete jungle of the Bronx, the signs of spring were hard to read. But in our apartment, my mother made sure my sister and I knew that spring had arrived. She'd put up a "blossom tree," basically a large ceramic bucket filled with pink cherry tree branches and sunny forsythia flowers. These she would decorate with intricately etched and patterned eggs she'd made, and tiny foil wrapped chocolate bunnies. On Easter morning, we'd awaken to find cheerful baskets "left by Peter Cottontail," as my mom would say. Lined with day-glo cellophane grass, these baskets were filled with various marshmallow treats, bright plastic eggs rattling with juicy jellybeans, spicy lavender scented soap, and even a small plush bunny or bear.
Of course, I never quite believed in the Easter bunny, but for us kids, these spring celebrations were always good fun. On Easter Sunday, after dutifully dressing up in our new spring outfits for attending Church, we'd settle in for a huge meal of savory fish stew, roast leg of lamb, and yummy creamed beets. My mother worked hard at these preparations to bring a ray of light and joy into our lives. This was a time for reliving seasonal family traditions and reconnecting with each other. These heartwarming moments of familial renewal were mirrored for me in the larger reawakening of nature that I would come to appreciate around me.
Nature has had good lessons for me. Moving to the suburbs when I was eight, I often spent my entire allowance on planting spring bulbs and perennials, now no longer in plastic pots from a five and dime store, but directly in the rich black soil of our own back yard. Spring equinox ushered in a new cycle of growth, and I spent awe-filled days observing the detailed wonders of life unfolding. Each week more flowers popped open, and plump buds on stately trees revealed intricately shaped oak, maple or elm leaves. In those lengthening days the sun rose higher, and the whole world seemed to be buzzing with life. During my hours spent outdoors, the song of life was echoed from the Earth, and my heart was content. Everything was getting a fresh start, it seemed, and in time I realized that new beginnings could include me as well. Even today, I find serenity in nature.
At our house, March and April were time for annual spring-cleaning. From the basement to the attic, we'd scrub, freshen up and sort out what had accumulated from the previous year. Dust and cobwebs were swept away, and repairs and paint touch ups were done, as the weather grew warmer. We all shared the house after all, so we all shared in its upkeep. In addition to spring maintenance, gently worn clothes were donated and old toys in good shape were sold to raise money for local charities. It felt good that efforts made for our house could also impact others. Outside, the fertile vegetable garden was tilled for new plants, and symbolically, life began again.
These days, spring-cleaning continues, now making way for my inner renewal. It's a good time to settle out old issues, and release patterns and situations that no longer serve me. No one else can do this for me. We all wish we could fly, but before that can happen for me, I have some work to do. Lately, I feel like the proverbial chick having to first hatch out of his own egg. I peck away at my shell of protection and fear based limitations that now I am ready to outgrow. I place a spotlight on what's present for me, the truth of this very moment. It is time for me to clear out the old, and repair what was neglected or broken. I welcome new experiences. I too am ready to spring to life
Certainly there is also a deep spiritual tradition to this season. Once I started attending school in the suburbs, Jewish friends introduced me to Passover, and so my experience expanded. I learned about how, for millions of Jews, Passover recalled their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Listening during the Passover meals to the stories of its roots in ethnic and religious liberation reflected for me that springtime holds the potential for release from many kinds of bondage. I have the power to grant myself freedom of mind and heart.
For Christians world over, Easter is a religious feast commemorating the resurrection of a living Christ. My heart finds inspiration in the spiritual renewal of Easter. Eternal life is not exclusive to any one religion; it is not just for me, but also for the entire human race. Jesus rising from the dead is dramatic, but its reflection in us is what I find so incredible. "Namaste," as the Hindu word reminds us, the Divine in me sees the Divine in you. We are all being resurrected to the awareness of our immortality and our familial connection as divine children of our Creator Source. Death is an illusion, the Easter story tells us, for in our essence we are all eternal beings.
The longer days of spring bring on a fresh light of transcendence. There seems to always be more to life than I can let in, but that's also what is so exciting. For me, the gift of spring is real freedom. It's an artful earthly balance between the daily grind and the bliss of eternal life. Spring awakens life on all levels, and I find that the more I share it, and the sheer joy that arises from it, the more my own well fills up. So, let's all spring to life!