Winds, rain, snow, thunder, frost-tipped tender green sprouts, flowers, territorial wake up calls, visits from colorful winged travelers, blissful sun-drenched afternoons and frigid nights by the fire…and so the wild dance toward spring sweeps through our forested landscape. There is a pensive feeling in the air and a sense that the energy underneath the soil is building with careful reserve, awakening from its winter slumber with deep, measured breaths. Creatures are listening and feeling for their cue to enter the dance, knowing that a poorly timed opening may cost them dearly in the coming months.
But how do the deciduous trees know when it is safe to unfurl their verdant bouquets and call forth the insects in their sensuous spring romance? It seems that no one knows for certain except, perhaps, the trees themselves. Scientists have discovered, though, that trees have tiny solar receptors which measure changes in sunlight and an intelligence that stores, integrates and compares this information over time. Trees consider not only the patterns in overall temperature increase but also the lengthening of the days to create an optimally timed opening. One might expect that after a warm winter, trees would green sooner in the spring, but the opposite tends to be true. The warmer the winter, the later trees will grow new leaves. It may be that trees need freezing temperatures to fully enter their restorative slumber and gain the energy needed to awaken again in spring. If this spring opening is miscalculated, the new tender growth can freeze and be severely damaged, forcing the tree to put energy into regrowth and potentially weakening energy reserves for the coming year. Plant shoots and little seeds also must consider the shifts in light and warmth as they begin to emerge - careful not to expose their tender growth to freezing temperatures and hungry late winter foragers.
We humans are not separate from this tumultuous and risky dance. The sunlight, the temperature, air pressure, patches of green, and even the tone of bird calls signal to us that life is building towards an exuberant opening, warning us to safeguard our own inner energy reserves and make preparations for what is to come. If we have not been able to slow down, turn inward and deeply nurture ourselves over the winter months, we also run the risk of springing into action too soon and swinging into exhaustion before the coming year is out.
One powerful way that I have found to nurture my rising energy at this time of year is by walking the land daily, exploring and taking notice of all of the miraculous shifts occurring in the more-than-human world. By consciously taking in this brilliance, I am reminded that I am part of a much bigger, unfolding wild whole. While wandering, I harvest the young green leaves sprouting up in the forest and at its edge. Chickweed, Cleavers, Nettles, Chives and Dandelion are already peeking out at this time of year and make for a wonderful whole system cleanse after the stagnant slumber of winter. I chop or tear the leaves and place them in a jar filled with cold water to infuse overnight and have a delicious tonic to drink the next morning.
Like my Celtic ancestors, I like to sit with the spring on my land during this time of year, feeling the life-giving blessing of pure water rising from the forest depths, singing, dreaming, and offering thanks for all that is rising in me and the world around me. As the life force of the land begins to rise, it is also a wonderful time for personal creative exploration - for crafting, journalling, singing, and dancing - and especially for doing so in the company and nurturing support of friends.
This year is likely to be a big one for those of us hoping to create change in our world, a year that will be best met with a deeply inspired and nourished spirit. And so in the midst of this exuberant and tumultuous shift towards spring, I invite you into a question: “What is rising in you…and how will you nurture its expression?”
Morning at Great Pond