Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Equinox

Remember at the Solstice, how I said I used to get up for the sunrise on the equinoxes and solstices but I have been lazy and not done it for years? Yeah, I remembered that too and got myself together for the Equinox! Yipee! It wasn't a terribly glorious morning - it was kind of grey - but it was worth it.

Astronomically, the equinox is halfway between the two solstices. It is the time at which the sun is directly overhead of the equator at noon and in most parts of the world this means the length of day is approximately the same as the length of the night. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words for equal night. I am a total science geek and love learning about, and teaching, how our earth works. I strongly believe that everyone should have a working knowledge of basic earth science principles - if you can't explain to an 8 year old why we have seasons then go check out this really awesome video that explains the seasons very clearly. Seriously, we all live here, we should have some basic idea of how it works :)

Culturally, the equinox is a major festival time in most parts of the world. The Persian new year celebration of Nowruz falls on the spring equinox and includes up to a full two weeks of rest and celebration. The Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays are also related to the equinox. For more information on the amazingly rich symbols and traditions of this time of year check out Waverly Fitzgerald's article on Spring Equinox traditions or any of her newsletters from around this time of the year. It is a time when winter can be said to be pretty much over in much of the northern hemisphere, and new life is exploding forth everywhere you look.

And boy oh boy is life exploding! Here in Portland the cherry trees exploded into blossom practically over night, the crocuses and daffodils are brightening every lawn or scrap of space they can find and everyone is talking about their garden. We had an unusually cold and dry winter this year but spring seems to be making up for all of that. Rain, rain and more rain. And mud. My mom talks about how she read many accounts of early settlers to the Willamette Valley during her first winter in Oregon and had never been so thankful for pavement in her whole life. The spring rains and resulting mud would swallow whole ox carts and keep pioneer women at home for months at a time.

True to form Equinox morning was gray and drizzly last Saturday. I woke up and drove Tumalo and myself up to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland to see what we could see. Turned out to be not much. On clear days you can see the city and two or three 10,000 foot peaks. We got a glimpse of the waning crescent moon, cloudy skies and the morning dog walk crowd. I did find a lovely patch of nettles and collected some for my breakfast.

After my early morning walk I brought my bag of nettles home, dried some, and sauteed some for an omlette. I spent the rest of my day leisurely relaxing, cleaning the house and planning my garden. Spring is here, spring is really here!

How is spring springing where you are? How did you celebrate the Equinox or other spring festivals?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seeds! Seeds!!

It is the full moon in the Seed moon and I can't think of a better time to start planting the garden! Well, OK, it is mostly planning right now but it will soon be time to sow. I am so excited about my garden this year. Growing food is such a primal urge and touches on so many aspects of my spirituality. I love watching plants grow and change and love even more making and eating food that I tended from seed to plate. I have not been settled enough the last few years to make gardening a priority but this year I am!

I going to be planting two different garden plots this year, one in my parents' yard and one in my little yard. I have been focusing on the plot at my parents' house because it needs the most work and is where I intend to grow my early season crops. Last winter I bought Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening and have been reading it cover to cover for months. The idea of his gardening method is to use his garden mix so you don't have to ammend native soil, and plant in squares instead of rows to reduce space and keep the harvest manageable. Sounds perfect to me!

I've been planning and replanning my square foot garden at my folks' house all these last two weeks. It's 4' x 6' and I will be planting peas, lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, onions, radishes and maybe some kale or broccolli this spring. I can't wait! I did put some pea seeds in last weekend but we've been having snow and hard frost followed by 60 degree days, so I'm not expecting much germination out of these ones. I'll plant some more next week and hope Mother Nature gives them a little more help with the weather.

I believe that planting and growing food is an important activity for all people to engage in. Even if it is sprouts in a jar, herbs on the windowsill or a tomato in a pot it is vital for us to be connected with the growth of the food we eat. In the Celestine Prophecy, a parable novel written by James Redfield, food grown with the aid of spritual energy is more nutritious than food grown in more traditional ways. I think at some levels this is a universal truth - the energy, love and attention that is put into food plants comes back to those who eat the food. Whether a home grown tomato has more vitamin A than a storebought one is almost irrelevant (though in many cases it is true) because a home grown tomatoe has more love to share. It has more chi, it has more God in it. And we can all use some more of that.

What are you planting this spring?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seed Moon is New

I am late in posting this month and the Seed Moon grows older every day. Again, we've had lovely clear weather here in Portland and I have been able to watch her as she grows each night from a little sliver to a happy plump crescent.

Annette Hinshaw calls this moon, the moon of the spring equinox, the Seed Moon and relates it to energies of starting projects. Seeds must grow, they must start, but a seeds "decision" to grow is a very chancy one, when you think about it. It was safe, warm, secure there in the seed coat. Once the seed starts growing it can't go back, but the wild world is very unsafe for a little seedling. What if a late frost or an early hailstorm happens? What if a young bunny thinks it looks delicious and takes a nibble? Or perhaps an unseasonable dry spell robs the young plant of the water it needs to grow? Oh, it was so much safer back inside the seed.

We humans face that problem too. Some mornings even getting out of bed seems like a herculean task. Lets not even talk about cleaning the bathroom or finishing that crochet project you started last fall. But beginning is something we must do, just as the seed must start to grow. In order to fulfill the potential we have within us we must find the courage to take that first step. Annette Hinshaw talks about how sometimes failure to begin is due to fear of failing and how sometimes it is due to fear of unintended consequences. I like to think that if we can find the courage to start then God will help guide what comes next.

Somethings, however, are a pleasure to start. Last weekend I did a lot of prep work in my garden to get it ready for planting next week. I also started out a new chapter of my life with a new housemate. It's been fun getting to know a new person and rearranging the house to fit his things and his life into a place so full of my things and my life.

Spring is a great time for new beginnings and I am enjoying watching everything burst into greens and yellows. The other day I took an early spring herb walk and was so happy to find little baby plants popping up all over the place. I was specifically looking for nettles but found lots more. Susun Weed, a master herbalist and wise woman healer, speaks at length of the nutritional qualities of nettle. She advocates making a nettle infusion to get your daily dose of minerals and vitamins from the plant world. I will soon go back up the trail and harvest the nettles I found after they've had a chance to grow up a bit.

I'll leave you with a poem I found recently that seems to speak perfectly to the themes of the Seed Moon. Trepidation at starting, anticipation of new beginnings and sheer joy at the physicality of spring!

Horses In the Spring

by Connie Wanek
photo by patmueller

Beware too much happiness!
The horses paused suspiciously before the open door,
snorting and stamping, while sunlight poured
onto the cold cement. They smelled snow
in the barn's shadow, mud along the south wall,
matted grass in the thawing pasture.
Their nostrils flared and their ears
lay back, then pricked forward, far forward,
and they stretched their elegant necks
as if the world were offering thema slice of sweet apple,
or something even more pure, on an open palm.....