|Spring Equinox, March 20, 2011, Flint Hills|
I was struck, yesterday, at the Equinox, that here in this mid-continental Eden of the Kansas Flint Hills, the gardening season really does begin with the Spring Equinox. Only a few different flowers have bloomed this year in my garden before March 20th; the over-achieving and uninspiring Witch Hazels a few weeks ago, a few stray snow crocus a couple of weeks back, and then finally my Dutch Crocus and Siberian Iris, jumping the gun by only a couple of days. But yesterday, exactly on the Equinox, the first Forsythia and the first Daffodil opened in my garden, these true Spring flowers confirming that Spring has indeed arrived in the Flint Hills.
The Ancients knew better about such things. Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest organized religions, uses a calendar with the first day of the new year coinciding with the vernal equinox. The concept of Oestara (light and dark balanced with light gaining power) was named for Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and new life (who also lent her name to the English word "Easter"). Many of the older Teutonic rituals for Eostre involved eggs, rabbits, and pastel colors, nature walks and the act of seed-planting, similar to our modern Easter rituals. It is only right that the celebrations of a new year should be related with the stirrings of green life, and not emphasized by the clamor of fireworks, but by the quiet call of the Meadowlark. Pagan rites of sowing seed and the symbolic sacrifice of a few virgins (always a decent addition to a drunken celebration) should be reinstituted and balanced by the Fall rites of Harvest and Thanksgiving.
The metamorphosis begins now! I propose that our yearly resolutions, those annual statements of good intent and purposeful existence, be made at the Spring Equinox. Last night, sitting in the gazebo after moving a few roses and trimming back the damaged boxwoods, I made the following promises for my gardening year:
1. I resolve, this year, to spend at least as much time sitting and listening to the life of my garden as I do imposing my will on it. The specific action plan will be to sit down at least at the end of each working chore to enjoy the quiet of a job well-done.
2. I resolve to allow more self-seeding by annuals, letting their natural wisdom choose the sites where they can flourish best. Action: designate a bed of bare, disturbed ground without mulch or extra water and simply weed out the weeds.
3. I resolve to spend less time pushing the envelopes of Hardiness Zone and individual plant water requirements with new introductions and to grow more of those plants that are "Zone-Worthy" by their obvious delight in this climate.
4. I will make specific plantings to attract and support avian wildlife to my garden and I will replenish and clean the hummingbird feeders at least every 3rd day. Nowhere are God's miracles more evident than in the flight of a hummingbird or the glimpse of a bluebird.
So join with me, my gardening friends, on this first day of the Northern Hemisphere New Gardening Year, and add your resolutions to mine. Rejoice ye, sow some seed, and sacrifice a few virgins in a drunken orgy if any can be found (I live, remember, in a College town). In absence of the latter, at least share a little grape juice with a Significant Other beneath the stars of a new Spring.