Last Saturday was the vernal equinox, the time when light and dark come into balance before, in the Northern hemisphere, the light begins to expand and grow leading up to the summer solstice. We arbitrarily mark this day as the first day of spring. As with other such global, astronomical events, it’s an important holiday in many ancient traditions. In digging into it on the European pagan or Druidic side, I found some of the expected focus on new birth/rebirth that spring often heralds, as well winsome virgin goddesses and horny green gods. But I also heard about themes of balance, being poised between things, being in transition. And a focus on emergence, things coming up and out and around after a period of darkness and hunkering.
This past January, instead of choosing resolutions or goals, I selected a word for the year. The word I chose was “sandbox,” which to me represents play, experimentation, building and trying things out with being attached to them or their outcomes. “Sandbox” feels like a very applicable concept for these equinox themes of emergence and transition.
This time of year in Eugene, we have these periods—sometimes a day, sometimes a week—of warmth and sun before the rain returns. I keep hearing people call these times “faux spring” and it irks me. Spring in this region is not a wish fulfillment of warmth. Spring is dynamic weather and incrementally warmer temperatures. Instead of near-constant mist and rain, we get busy systems where it will pour and then sparkle and sprinkle and then thunder or maybe even hail and then quickly clear up into sunshine again, all in the same day. And then we get these micro-stretches of sunny warmth or longer periods of gray. It’s gorgeous. It will ruin any surety you feel around biking plans. And it encourages those of us who live here to drop everything to seize a window of sun.
The point is, spring doesn’t equal proto-summer here, it equals dynamism, transition. And the local plants and animals know what season it is. Many of the songbirds are back, with more arriving every week. The turkeys strut around my neighborhood, puffed up with machismo and desire. The spring flowers, from daffodils to trillium, lift their cheerful faces when dry and slump with sadness after being pummeled by rain. And it seems as if each day or two, another tree or bush catches my eye with new shadings of nascent green.
Simultaneous with the spring, I have found myself draw in particular to poetry. I think both the season and certain poems pluck similar strings in my soul. Plus poetry also plays in the sandbox of emergence and transition, ambiguity and things coming up and out and through. On the equinox I resonated with “Instructions on Not Giving Up” by Ada Limón*, a piece that feels not only apt for the spring but for the transition out of this COVID winter as she describes the leafing trees as “a green skin / growing over whatever winter did to us.”
I also recommend the prose-poem “Close“—”Our human essence lies not in arrival, but in being almost there, we are creatures who are on the way, our journey a series of impending anticipated arrivals”—by David Whyte, a writer who speaks to my current time of life that I need to spend more time with.
And last, check out the exquisite “There is No World Like the One Emerging” by the incomparable Joy Harjo, a poet who manages to be either achingly universal or world-opening specific or, in some form of witchery, both: “I am lingering at the edge / of a broken heart, striking relentlessly / against the flint of hard will.”
Whatever is true for you in your life right now, as we move inexorably between seasons and pandemic stages and emotions and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, I hope you have a poem to bundle around your heart.
*Out of respect for the poets and their intellectual property, I am linking to these online version, rather than re-creating their works here. Please do check them out as they are so gorgeous.