Where I am, spring tends to come very late. Although we've had an unusually warm winter, there will probably still be bursts of snow and below-freezing temps.
But, there are a few small signs that a shift toward the new season has begun. Bits of green are popping up here and there, little leaves of garlic mustard and mints, and the tiniest buds have begun to unfurl on some of the low-growing thickets along the lake. The sun is a little warmer, and the house finches have started to sing their spring songs.
Soon, on Thursday, March 19th, we'll reach Ostara, the spring equinox. Ostara is the balance point of light and dark, the moment during the year when the light truly starts to overtake the dark. After the equinox, the days are longer than the nights. In the Druid tradition, we call it Alban Eilir, or The Light of the Earth.
The growing things sense this shift (yes, trees and other plants can "see" light, but that's a science lesson for another time...) and begin to wake up, sending energy skyward from their roots to create new leaves.
So too should we begin to wake up, feel the life rising from the earth and start to implement the plans and ideas we seeded over the winter. Waking up from the dreamtime of the dark months can be a little difficult sometimes - it can be tempting to stay where we are, snuggled in under deep snows. But it's time to leave behind what we no longer need, to set our sights on what we want to create for ourselves.
Around the spring equinox, I love to do a little visualization work to wake myself up and reset my energy for the changing of the seasons. This year I've written down a meditation I'd like to share.
To start, turn off your phone and any other distracting electronics. Make sure you have a calm, quiet space and a little time to yourself. Light a brightly colored candle (I like green, purple or yellow for this time of year, but pick one that feels happy to you!) and get seated in a comfortable position, with your feet touching the floor. Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breathes until you feel settled, calm, and centered in your body...
Now picture yourself walking through a winter forest. There are towering spruces and pines covered in heavy snow, and the only sound is your breath and the crunch of your warm boots on the frozen ground. You are utterly, deliciously alone, but completely safe and free. Take as much time here as you need.
You are making your way towards the edge of the forest, following the light of the afternoon sun. The air is cold and clean, and you fill your lungs with it.
A small stream runs beside the path you are following, and as you walk you begin to see that the ice along its banks is thawing, slowly disappearing into the bubbling water. The air is chill, but not as crisp as it was deep in the pines. The moss on the rocks glows golden-green in the slanting light.
Notice now that the snow under the trees and under your feet is slowly melting too; in its place, tiny shoots of green are visible, pushing up from the forest floor.
Before you there is a carpet of ephemeral spring flowers; washes of bright violet, pastel yellow and white mixed in with the soft green of new growth. The pines have thinned now, giving way to a more open forest of beeches, maples, oaks, and flowering wild cherries.
The light of the sun feels stronger, warm on your face. You stop to take off your heavy coat and stretch out your arms. You feel light. Birds are beginning to sing, and there is a rich scent of loam, of green, of earth itself. There are tiny, perfect new leaves on the trees.
You have nearly reached the edge of the forest now. You sense the openness just beyond, the possibility and expansiveness of the sky. It's warm, and you take off your heavy boots and thick socks; they are worn out now, and you leave them behind. There are other things you want to leave behind too, things you no longer need. Worries, patterns to break, old things that weigh too much. Drop them, shed them, leave them in the forest.
The dirt of the path feels good and grounding under your bare feet, and you stretch out your toes and dig them into the earth.
The path begins to narrow gradually, winding through the guardian oaks that stand at the edges of the forest. You've come to the end, or the beginning.
You step through, and suddenly before you is a vast meadow filled with wildflowers. Reds, yellows, purples and blues swaying in a warm breeze. The blue-green outlines of mountains are visible in the distance. The world is lush and green.
You sit down now to rest in the sun, stretching out your legs onto the warm grass. The forest is behind you, and winter just a memory.
Think about the seeds you have planted for yourself during the dreaming time of winter. Actual seeds, seeds of plans, seeds of things you want to bring forth. Picture them sprouting, coming to life, pushing up into the light, growing into what you desire. What do you see?
Stay here for a while.
When you feel ready, bring your attention back to your breath and how you feel in your body. Five breaths in, five breaths out. Let the awareness of where you are sink slowly back in. Open your eyes and look at the flame before you, like a tiny glowing sun. Carry that energy with you into the spring.