Spring, the Unsung Season

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/20/2017, 3:56 p.m.
Spring had long been my fourth favorite season. No offense, spring, but you lack the best holidays, snow, swimming, falling ...
Spring signifies coming out of the darkness. We've tipped the balance from longer nights to longer days. Equinox means "equal night" of light and dark (roughly), and metaphorically, we should also spend more time in the light.

In Russia, the spring holiday of Maslenitsa (aka Pancake Week!) is a sun festival with singing, dancing, warm beverages, jingle bells, bonfires and lots of pancakes. Passover is a spring holiday that celebrates the brightness that follows the dark days of slavery. And the Indian holiday of Holi brings winter to a Technicolor close.

Christians celebrate a literal return from death (according to their faith) by Jesus at Easter. That holiday's roots date to the ancient goddess Eostre (from the region that is now Germany), who was accompanied by a magical egg-laying hare. Rabbits and colorful eggs are metaphors for procreation, new beginnings and a promise for what's to come.

Taking a lesson from our ancestors, we shouldn't take the power of spring for granted, either. Instead, embrace the genesis it imparts over the Earth. While we enjoy more daylight, blooming grass and flowers, and the breeze on our skin after being covered for so long, we should also consider how vital those things are to our basic needs as humans.

"You know what spring is?" rhetorically asked my wife, the accidental poet. "It's getting up in the morning to get on the road. It's going to the airport to take a flight. It's the promise of adventure before reality sets in."

Mindfulness + environment = meta-mindfulness

The reward for expanding awareness to our greater environment, as it unfolds, is that it helps you anchor yourself in time and place.

Noticing and celebrating what's happening with the weather, temperature, animals, trees and general vibe can help us be more centered and connected. That's what those holidays do, or were designed to do. They bring us together around things we all value religiously and secularly: life, new starts, love, generosity, peace.

And of course there are many personally enjoyable ways to celebrate and connect to seasons as well: walking in nature, learning to sing or play a seasonal or holiday song, watching a seasonal or holiday movie, enjoying foods traditionally associated with the season and other such activities designed to deliver happiness.

As you get in touch with spring's gifts, its meaning and metaphoric reminders, make it a year-round meditation.

"Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each," said Henry David Thoreau, who knew several books worth about living in community with the seasons.

In addition to a classic like "Walden," a title that guides you through the year is Verlyn Klinkenborg's hyper-observational "The Rural Life," which I took a year to read so I could focus on each month's chapter at its appropriate time. Author Wendy Pfeffer and illustrator Linda Bleck, whose "A New Beginning" taught me about some spring holidays, created four good children's books about the equinoxes and solstices.

Each season has its touchstones for the mind and body, many of which you already enjoy, perhaps without realizing it.

In summer, let the heat slow you down and savor simple pleasures. Waste time at beaches and pools. Go camping, or at least spend the day in the woods. Eat cherries, peaches and ice cream. Run through sprinklers and wave around sparklers, see an outdoor performance or more if you can swing it, read a book with little literary merit for the guilty pleasure of it.

In fall, welcome an inward focus as the days get chillier and darker. Feel the form-fitting embrace of a favorite sweater. Let Halloween be an excuse to play someone else for a night, or to play tricks on others, or to eat too much chocolate. Savor cider doughnuts, apple pie and candy corn. Stop to see the orange-yellow-red foliage in its beautiful death bloom.

In winter, go deep inside yourself and get snug and comfortable there. Practice the Scandinavian coziness art of hygge. Throw and build things with snow and slide down it. Warm your hands by the fire and your tummy with hot chocolate or hot toddies. Wrap a gift and give it to someone you love.

And in spring, let yourself break out of the cocoon. Open those windows. get outside, plant something, fly a kite, ride a bike, have a picnic. We've endured the darkness and need to play.