“Spring is sprung; the grass is riz --- I wonder where the birdies is….”*
Winter is having a hard time loosening its grip on us. Snow just keeps coming down and we keep shoveling and filling the feeders for the cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees and, although not invited, the deer. Palm Sunday is just three days ahead, and then comes Easter. So ---- we keep hoping spring will also arrive!! We’ve experienced a few snowy Easters in past years, but we’d rather that didn’t happen in 2018. I changed the evergreen wreath on our door to one with forsythia, hoping to influence the weather, but so far---- no impact on winter!! In the spirit of eternal optimism, though, I do expect daffodils really soon!
I enjoy this time of year. Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, the preparations for Easter are generally not so labor-intensive. It is a more meditative season that awakens a need for exploring our spiritual component. We are prone to neglect that part of ourselves simply because we are so busy with careers, community involvement and the never-ending tasks of living. The Easter-Passover season reminds us to pause; to consider spiritual growth as something that impacts our health and ability to live a satisfying life. We may realize that if our beliefs are real, they aren’t just for holidays, but for daily living. If you are a reader, some book selections that speak to this are: Choices by Alexandra Stoddard and How Then Shall We Live by Wayne Muller. Neither is denominational in any way, but both speak of living joyfully, an interior as well as an exterior life. And if you are open for it, a more theological and challenging book is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Taking time for thoughtfulness and good Lenten reading is probably more useful than giving up chocolate!!
One of the most delightful Easter customs is coloring eggs. This has been going on for centuries, and some traditions turn the eggs into fine works of art, like the Ukrainian wax& dye process. I’ll probably be coloring Easter eggs when I’m ninety, though mine are not at all elaborate. The regular coloring kits available in grocery stores are fun, but even more entertaining is using some of the available natural colorings. Wrapping eggs in red or yellow onion skins gives them muted shades of color, depending on how long one leaves them wrapped. If you have skillful fingers, you can cut designs in the onion skins. There are vegetables, fruits and spices that also may be used: beets (lavender), blueberries (purplish-blue), turmeric (yellow), cranberry juice (pink) and grape juice (blue-violet). Adding vinegar to the soaking cups intensified the color. And polishing the eggs after coloring gives them a lovely patina. If you wish to provide a bit more sparkle, apply a thin layer of adhesive (diluted white glue) and roll the eggs in glitter. (I wouldn’t recommend eating those!) Nestled in a pot of home-grown grass (or cat grass from the florist shop) they will speak of newness and spring.
Back to books----- when I think of reading, I (of course) also think of writing. As I read, I’m often in awe of what comes out of people’s heads, through their fingers and onto paper. Once in a blue moon, for me, the writing just flows, but more often, it has to be coaxed and pulled out with agonizing and considerable editing. For several years now, I have promised my family a narrative cookbook: “Grandma’s House”. This would be a book of family stories and recipes, focusing on my mother and the home where everyone gathered, with peeks into other family homes too. It would be a sort of anthology of us, as a clan, using our favorite foods as the connecting vehicle. But --- how I procrastinate! ----how hard this seems to be! Oh, the recipes are all available, and so are the stories. But it is difficult; the weaving them together into a tapestry that makes evident the warmth of sitting around that polished oak table with steaming cups of amber tea and several choices of cookie boxes. How to make clear the combined aromas of varnish and paint (artist’s paraphernalia), wood smoke, bouquets of lilacs, baking cookies and scent of burning candle wax? And how does one insert the lowing sound of a barn-full of cows, the mostly contented clucking of chickens and the bird song from the trees and gardens? So far, the pattern has eluded me --- but I will figure it out! Given time and focus! Or perhaps the project will fly into another family member’s mind and flow through their fingers into a book. Meanwhile, just thinking about this brightens my day as I take a mini-vacation back in time to the drumlins and green fields where I grew up.
While that book remains in my imagination, my garden orders are immediate and real, and I’m now concentrating on getting them ready to send in this week. Editing the plant possibilities is almost as agonizing as editing what I write. My gardens are blossoming extravagantly ----- in my plans. It is so easy to envision what should be marvelous patterns of color and texture in the gardens. How much harder it is to convince those seeds and plants to flourish as they should in our unwelcoming clay soil.
Daffodils are soon to come, but pussy willows are here now. One of my former co-workers, from an Aleutian tribe in Alaska, said that they always used pussy willows instead of palm branches for Palm Sunday. Palm trees are a tad scarce in Alaska I’d imagine. And since I can’t seem to keep a palm (or much else) alive over winter, I too use pussy willows, on the altar table at church. And they stand in all their delightful gray fuzziness, representing both the coming spring and the wonders of creation. Whatever our capricious weather brings, I am sending good wishes to you for a blessed Easter/Passover/Springtime. Take some time to play for as Logan Pearsall Smith** says: “If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul.” Enjoy each day, be grateful and be glad!!
*--An old country verse, but I haven’t any idea from whence it comes.
**--Logan Pearsall Smith (son of Hannah Whitall Smith) was an American-born British essayist and critic. 1865-1946.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .