So. I was going to blog a post last week about Ostara, Alban Eiler, the Spring Equinox – my favourite festival in the entire pagan wheel of the year. Fluffhead was very sick, so I couldn’t blog anything. He begins to mend, so here I am again.
Most pagans I have ever spoken to seem to love the whole Samhain, Samhuinn (Halloween), or Litha, Alban Hefin (Midsummer), or Yule, Alban Arthan (before Christmas) best. But I always loved Ostara best. Maybe it’s the fact that I am always in a bit of downer in that strange nothingy period between January and May (Imbolc: the festival of lights at the start of February is my second favourite festival). The fact that everyone is talking about spring while I am still freezing my imaginary bollocks off. I don’t know. The fact that of course, Ostara (from Oestre, Nordic goddess who runs fleet of foot over the land, sprouting greenery wherever she places her feet) is shortly afterward followed by that Chocolate Festie we all know as Easter. Maybe the proximity to chocolate has something to do with it.
I think it’s likeliest to be the colours: all that pastel pale yellow, the gentle pinks, the baby soft sky blues, gentle sprout of new shooting grass green. It calms the eye, spreads soft over my yelling brain, and quiets it, for however long. The images of hares dancing over a flowery meadow, all that stuff about new chicks and eggs and baby lambs…it’s a very fluffy, feathery hopeful period. It makes me think of sunshine on my head.
I watch the laurel and the other brilliant unidentified tree outside the living room window. The laurel’s fat leaves remain as ever they are, lush and wide. The other tree has dropped everything over winter, but within the space of a week has budded and let out tiny new shoots all over itself. Each day they open a bit more. Today they are actually tiny leaves, all unfurling like a fist opening, more wrapped inside each one. There’s going to be blossom or small flowers of some sort too, which I don’t remember from last year. I wait to see what colour. I watch the green against the blue sky. Yesterday the temperatures were as hot as June, after the endless cold. (People keep saying what a mild winter it has been, which is really annoying me – I was damn well freezing, and my book room is growing a mouldy damp…as far as I am concerned the wind and the cold were quite sufficient in my little world.)
I change my altar to a pale green, add a small hazel wood pentacle disc, wooden painted statues of rabbits and hares, and a potted hyacinth that has become pinkish, lavenderish. Small tealights for warmth. Some sunflower seeds.
Finally I have managed to get the spirituality thing from my resolutions underway. I was trying to think what can be done in 5 minutes a day that would really and truly make a difference. Not something brainish (too easy for me to just think about things) – a Doing Thing. It was so simple. Sit in the garden, no matter the weather, for 5 minutes every day at whatever time I can. Usually, as soon as Fluffhead begins to sleep, before I start panicking about all the things I have to get done in a tiny timeframe. Just sit. Do NOT look at all the things that need going in the garden. (Do not think of the mowing, the shiteload of weeding, the bulbs and herbs to be planted, the seeds to be germinated, the trees that are growing where according to our rental contract we must not let them be…None of that.) It’s hard to sit there and not think – ‘blimey this garden is out of control…and I am supposed to be keeping it neat, its part of my job at home here, and it’s a stipulation in the rental contract that I do so…’ But I have been so tired lately, its become easier. Just go out there, sit in the one plastic garden chair that I have placed far back on the concrete near the living room doors, so I can view the whole garden. Those three tall and swaying firs. The prickly pride of the holly, barely moving. The sycamore chancers shooting up everywhere. The cherry blossom in bud. The buddleias that have gone insane and shot up 6 feet this year. The tiny purple flowers all over the lawn. I don’t know what they are, but they are truly lovely.
Just that 5 minutes. The idea is to just watch and listen. Watch for squirrels, as they do tend to run past, frilling their tails. The odd (very rare) hedgehog that appears from behind the large woodpile and snuffles its way across the whole garden. Occasionally a fox, moving low, tail down. Sometimes the fox is in a bit of a state, a wounded side, or a manky looking bitten tail. This one runs with a wariness and tautness to danger. If I even breathe while he is around, he takes off immediately. I have to be invisible and barely blink. He runs very close to the back of the wall, as much under the shade of the firs and the hedge behind as he can. Sometimes a much sleeker and shinier one runs through. With a small cub. They are more confident, and look at me, here and there. The look cannot be properly described. If that dad fox (I feel it’s the dad, I may be all wrong of course) were a human, then that look says: ‘don’t even think about it, possible food source, this land here is mine’. It’s piercing, cold and there is pacing striding thought in there, if only I really did understand fox language. The little one’s look just says, ‘oh!’ in a scattered sort of way, before running on. They are usually going from the right to the left across the garden, but once they seemed to play chase and ran back and forth about 4 times, while I felt enormously lucky (and a bit irritated that my brain was also engaged in the direst wish to go for a pee, when I wanted my brain to be clear for the wonder of animal interaction).
Sometimes no animals show themselves. Sometimes I can just hear the birds. The tiniest birds often make the largest sounds. The magpies (everywhere around here) fly low over the garden and come and sit on the roof of the outhouse strutting noisily about. Reminding me of the massive seagulls that sit on my mother’s flat roof down by the sea and can wake her at 4 in the morning. Sometimes I hear seagulls here, and always I instantly feel a sensation of sunlight and salty sea walks, a sensation of spaciousness and clarity. If Fluffhead is with me outside at any time of day, he really responds to these particular bird sounds, always raising his hands in an imperious Emperor type pointy gesture at them. As I say, some days I don’t see them at all. I just listen to the wind in the trees, and hear them from around the house or the next door’s garden. I listen to the grass and the leaves move.
I get very annoyed when next door (the neighbour’s I really dislike on the left hand side) are in the garden. They are one of those families who can’t be anywhere without musical accompaniment. Always the radio, the boombox, the mobile phone with them. They do their gardening chores or bounce on their ridiculously large trampoline listening to loud Capital Radio (if it’s the mum), or loud hip-hop, modern so called-R&B (if it’s the teenage daughter). Metal if it’s the son. I object to the metal the least; I like the energy of it pounding. It’s the sort of noise you want turned up, so you can be irritated at proper volume; and then ask what was that song called? The others though…bloody talking on the radio, argh. And modern so called R&B…whatever. If they are out there I go away and attempt to come back later. I want to hear the garden, not them, screeching and playing music that I didn’t even pick!
The other sounds I get uncomfortable listening to is the school nearby. The sound of that human jungle arises often when I am out there: break time, lunchtime, whichever. That is the true meaning of screeching, schools. It’s a weird saturated sound: it’s far enough away that it plays in and out on the wind; but close enough that sometimes I hear individual voices within the cacophony. Instant flashback of complete alienation in the face of that environment of running about and shrieking and being so intensely pack-ish. Memories of skulking to the edge, hiding in shade. (No wonder I always want to hug the wounded fox when I see him; and I never will be able to of course.) I used to engineer it to get given tasks indoors at breaktimes as often as possible, or tasks in other outside parts of the school, stacking chairs, putting away the outside gym mats etc. Anything to keep me away from the pack, and let me think, watch and listen in peace. After all those years, so loooooooooooong now; still I feel the dislocation of those times. Every time I hear the playground.
So sometimes I try and go away and come back then also. And then other times, I just sit quietly and try to listen to that too. It’s far enough away, I say to myself. It’s gone. You are here; this is your garden you share with the birds and the creatures, the trees and the grass. You are safe within these bounds.
I have managed this small and oddly significant spiritual practice for over a month now. Just watching. Listening. Sitting. Being there. I miss it when I don’t do it.
It’s made me want to engage more with the garden too. Though I am not thinking of the chores, I can still see them. And it’s made me want to care for it so much more – to have a proper relationship with it. And of course, this season of Ostara, when all wakes up and seeds will begin to grow: this is the time to reintroduce myself to my garden that I let alone all winter as it was Definitely So Cold.
So, today, when I have an amazing 3 hours of babysitting, I am going to stop talking to you now. I am going to sit in the sun, and be there. Then I may have a word with the borage and green alkanet, in the Strongest Possible Terms (as in: dudes, you aren’t just being here, you are hogging here, and some of you have got to go, ok?). I will wave a trowel at them and do terrible things.
Then I will plant some sunflower seeds. Grow a happy garden, grow a happy me. Fleet of foot over the land, sending up new shoots wherever I place my feet. Helping spring.