Time to turn inward, time to wind up the long ribbon of summerness – the one that gets reeled out for all the parties, the festivities, the travel, the catching-up-with people, the ecstatic summertime zenith of activity so looked forward to during the quieter months.
Time to lessen the pace of a skip to that of a meander, to equalise the breath gently before the concentrated inhalation winter brings, pulls us in the other direction, towards home, towards our centres, towards that infinite space within.
Connected to the giant rhythms of the earth, I can find a sense of wellbeing. Subtropical seasonal patterns are still a mystery to me, but having lived the bulk of my life within the steady unfolding of the four seasons, I wait and I watch for any slight variances within this still-new environment.
Suddenly, the jeans are pulled on. The air-con hasn’t been thought about in a fortnight. The utterances of “it’s a bit chilly tonight” begin. Suddenly, the potted plants are standing tall, the dog’s mane is all fluffed up, the washing takes an extra hour or so on the line to dry. And against this backdrop, something deep within lies back and smiles, for summer’s extraordinary, sense-sational carnival of frenzied joyousness is packing up and moving on, wagon wheels creaking to take the party north again, to those who have been patiently waiting.
And when this feeling comes upon me, I know it is time for my favourite of festivals, Easter.
Easter in Autumn is the name of a book I am yet to review here, but it is also a succinct description of the reality of the situation in the Southern Hemisphere. At least for me, before delving into the festival, I accepted the springtime imagery just as easily as the northerners must, and was happy to simply acknowledge that yes it is springtime in the north, and that is why we see eggs and chicks and bunny rabbits in the shops. After all, us Southerners are very used to such allowances, having been bombarded with northern Christmas imagery since forever.
But I was also brought up within the Catholic tradition, so the Christian story of Easter is also present within me – Ash Wednesday, the period of Lent, Palm Sunday, the story of Good Friday, the Last Supper, the betrayal, the crucifixion, and then of course, the resurrection.
Perhaps these tales were told through the language of Nature to those shamans attuned enough to listen and who must’ve worked tirelessly for millennia bringing the message of life-after-death forward. And maybe these are their exact storylines brought forward into the stark daylight of modern humanity, for us to understand something transcendental in a very cerebral and concrete fashion.
In this way, I am fascinated by how this story is utterly archaic, but still persists with such vigour that we find ourselves consciously aware of this thing called Easter, and still celebrate it.
Like a mischievous elf having left clues for the lumbering giants, symbols and stories, traditions, feelings, and the wonderment of nature still exist, despite this modern, ‘disconnected’ era we find ourselves. Consciously we see the springtime symbols of renewal and everlasting life all around us in the shops, we all buy chocolate bunnies or eggs, hide them for our children to find in the garden, gather as a family of whatever ilk on the big day, or set it aside to get away with our loving companion to rest up, cosy autumnal style, or indeed feel somewhat aggrieved if it is a day we have to work. On whatever level you encounter the festival, something must be ringing within about the symbols seen, even if in subconscious ways.
The persistent picture of life overcoming death, of something of us which is eternal, a suggestion of reincarnation, of defeat over the material realm, of an enduring force of love that knows no boundaries…
Is this why I love Easter so much?
The symbols are very important to me.
The seasonal fertility picture is what was celebrated by our ancestors, and it is said, acted as a precursor to the story of Christ’s resurrection which has taken the concept to the next level. Not only does nature work in cyclical patterns of renewal and evolution, but something of the free-willed human being does too. I see the Christian picture as the human story to a concept already described and understood through nature. Both pictures tell of the same phenomenon, which is, life after death. Still a concept unable to be integrated by so many.
I enjoy finding the deeper metaphors which lie in the aforementioned pagan imagery that is still present today, and transforming them into living pictures that make sense to me as an individual in my southern environs.
We weren’t going to throw the baby out with the bathwater when we decided not to raise Leonardo within the conventional Catholic tradition. We both left that world behind many moons ago, call us crazy, but this is a DIY number, (well not entirely)! But with that perspective, came the understanding of the significance of some of the golden nuggets of our upbringing, those experiences of ritual, of yearly rhythms, of symbols, of stories, of mystery and magic, of supernatural forces working inextricably through each of us in ways we can never fully fathom. All those hours in the pews, looking around, gazing at the iconography and straining my neck towards the lofty space above my head, smelling the delicious incense, hearing the incantations, speaking as one with the congregation, the call and response prayers, serving as an altar-girl lighting candles, the monumental death of all deaths and the taste of life renewed with every Communion received, these aspects of the religion worked themselves very deeply within my being. And despite choosing not to practice my faith like this anymore, I see how transcendental the practices actually are.
So how will O and I develop a renewed culture within our family home?
How will we bring the essence of magic, of peace, of hope, of courage, of love into the worlds of our children? Well, apart from actively choosing the wider community we operate within, we get to choose how our yearly rhythm looks within the home.
We get to choose how we acknowledge the changes in nature, which is the elemental picture of the deeper message learned through the Christian festival of Easter. We can set a basis for these values in a foundational way, which will be built upon as the children mature and grow. The reflection of these values will be mirrored back by the wider community once they step out of the home’s sphere and experience that next phase in their lives.
These values are thoroughly secularised these days, and are seen in the West as our towering tenets of human rights, child advocacy, marriage equality, women’s rights, animal welfare, environmental action, etc. And so, as the unfolding picture of the world becomes illuminated to them, and when life gets real, our hope is that our children will have inside them a deep reserve of inner strength, a fiery sense of courage and a passionate determination to fight the good fight against whatever form the adversary may take.
But in the meantime, it’s all about seasonal tables!
A little bit of pagan imagery never did Christianity any harm 🌾🍄🍂
So the symbols are very important to me. And luckily not all is lost by celebrating Easter downunder, amidst the fluffy bunnies and nests full of eggs. Actually, these mainstream springtime images need not be rejected.
Instead, chickens become the great elemental mothers who patiently sit and protect their eggs until Easter Sunday (or Spring), when of course the fruits of their labours hatch.
Rabbits become symbolic of the earth’s impending deep rest period, instinctively snuggling warmly below the surface, nestled away with their families in their burrows until it is time to again emerge.
The egg we eat allows us to find the golden wonder that exists inside, the golden heart within each of us.
Embarking on an Easter egg hunt is like our lifelong journey through the wilderness, seeking for – and eventually finding – spiritual enlightenment. We search the damp and scratchy undergrowth hoping to find a treasure, and there it is, a shiny little foil-wrapped egg, glinting. How powerful is this metaphor for us adults, and how wonderful is this feeling for a child!
Here are but a few ways an imagination can be moulded into forming a living picture for the symbols seen around. By simply tuning in to what my natural environment is offering up, wherever across the earth’s vast surface I may be living, a tale of renewal, of life transformed, of patience, of perseverance, of hope or courage or victory against the odds, will be discovered.
By re-membering this elemental code, I feel I reconnect with something essential and unequivocally existent which could be at risk of being over-looked in my busy little life. In fact, the more often I place focus on such symbols, the deeper their message emanates throughout, polishing my rough edges and smoothing out this funny form which I inhabit and traverse the world with. In a sense, the more at home here I become.
There is much to be said about the mysteries of the festival of Easter. Much, much more. In fact the profundity of the whole message is rather jaw-dropping at times.
Whether it is the Christian story of resurrection, or the simple change of seasons and experienced renewal of life, there is something going on which affects us all. So how will I seize the opportunity to teach-without-teaching, a renewed and conscious culture to my children in a way that will strengthen and nourish them over time?
I think the wisdom lies with the rhythm and repetition of seasonal awareness, stories and symbols, family rituals and traditions. Those we create, through inspiration of place, by learning from each other, by finding what feels right in our own mini-cultures of the nuclear family. By seeking a wider community that will reflect our ideals when the time is right for the children to seek without and to look beyond Mum and Dad. Simple yet powerful symbols may be selected and through repetition year after year, their essential message will lie as a foundation within the child’s soul – a pediment moulded from trust and love, a springboard to the future cultivation of their understanding of the world, loving their place within it and having the ability to recognise and fulfil their own destiny.
Must be more pagan than I thought 🌾🍄🍂 but I get really excited about Easter … and the cooling of the weather … and the space of renewal … in contrast to the spring coloured shop displays our bunny is decidedly muted, nestling down in her soft burrow, preparing her babies for a long winter in … mother hen sits on her egg, protecting its cultivation until the new birth in September … our mysterious gnome rises from the gnarled depths, popping up mushrooms after the early autumnal rains … gnomie polishes the crystals and lets the waning sunlight glint a few last times before Father Winter’s low slung sun fails to penetrate the depths of our wee bricked den like home … gumnut soup simmers in the pot while we set our table with carved mother of pearl spoons … bunny takes a sip, gnomie takes a sip, chicken takes a sip and we all warm our tummies to guard from this new brittle air … 🌬… and soon the Easter hare will arrive with magical chocolate that will do the same trick!