Herald Journal Columns
March 27, 2006, Herald Journal

The rites of spring


It is almost here. I can smell it in the air.

As I watch the rivers run down the streets, and smell the damp earth and the budding trees, I know it is coming.

As I listen to the song of the birds, I can feel the anticipation.

Soon, we will be able to emerge from our winter cocoons and enjoy the delicious freedom of venturing forth in our spring wardrobes without the burden of gloves and winter coats..

The spring rains will soon wash away the gritty residue of winter and leave the landscape fresh and green.

It is a time for rejoicing.

Celebrations of spring are not new. Throughout history, people around the world have marked the vernal equinox as a time of celebration.

Some ancient customs are still in evidence today.

The pagan goddess Eostre was commemorated on Ostara (also known as Lady Day or Alban Eiler), which coincided with the vernal equinox.

Eostre is associated with the fertility symbols, the rabbit and the egg.

In Eostre’s day, the rabbits did not come in pastel colors, and the eggs did not hatch into marshmallow chicks, but the symbols are still around.

The easter lily is another symbol of fertility that is still with us.

In pre-Christian northern Europe, it was considered bad luck to wear anything but new clothes at Ostara.

Other traditions are less well-known.

According to pagan tradition, spring cleaners would scrub only in a clockwise direction.

There is an old German custom involving a sun wheel.

A large wooden wheel would be rolled to the top of a tall hill, set on fire, and rolled down into the fields to symbolize the bringing of the warmth and energy of the sun to the fields for the first spring planting and plowing.

Today, some of the traditions have changed, and, unless one goes out clubbing, one hardly ever sees the wild fertility dances enjoyed by the ancients, but we have our own rites of spring.

For some of us, the first time we take the motorcycle out of the garage in the spring is an event that is anticipated throughout the long, dark winter.

The feel of the tires on the pavement, and the smell of the fresh spring wind are the stuff of dreams.

The first time one puts the kayak in the water and feels the energy of the waves is also special.

By design, kayaks allow us to be immersed in nature, rather than being merely a spectator.

I have been fortunate enough to paddle among the icebergs in the Duluth harbor in early spring.

One can feel the incredible power of nature as winter reluctantly gives up its icy grip on the land.

There is something about looking up from the cockpit of a 16-foot kayak, and watching a 1,000-foot ore boat slide by, that tends to put life in perspective.

These events are just some of the ways to celebrate the freedom of the season.

We are lucky to live in Minnesota. The dramatic change of seasons gives us an appreciation of what we have that some people will never know.

As Minnesotans, we are seldom satisfied with the status quo, and one of our favorite pastimes is to complain about the weather.

It is too hot in the summer, and too cold in the winter.

But the infinite variety gives us the opportunity to appreciate things differently.

The climate can be harsh at times, but it makes the fine days that much sweeter.

Life would be awfully dull if things were always the same.

Whatever your passion, don’t let this time pass you by. Embrace diversity. Revel in the season. Get out there and smell the wind and taste the rain.

It’s a wonderful world.

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