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Here’s another quick excerpt below:
Being Mindful of the Seasons:
Spring planting rituals
By Gwen Potter
I am not religious, but I do embrace the concept ofmindfulness – of being aware of my thoughts and actions and motivations. And, I think that it’s also important that we be mindful of the world in which we live. By being engaged and aware of how we fit into our ecosystem, we are, I believe, far more likely to protect it. Yet, living in a vast urban region, it can be hard to do. When our food is shipped to us across hundreds or thousands of kilometres, we are sheltered from the understanding of how vital the well-being of the earth is to our own well-being. Even so, it’s increasingly clear that more and more people want to recover and maintain our connection to this planet that sustains us.
Eating food in season is one way that we can increase that awareness. Even as city-dwellers, however, there are many other things we can do to reconnect with the natural cycle of the world. Can anyone fail to notice when spring first makes itself known? The flip-flops and the lighter jackets and the sudden lack of hats is a clue, of course. Still, more exciting to me is the subtle budding of the trees and the first purple and yellow crocuses that peek out beside houses. This year, that quick change seemed to happen almost over night.
In many cultures, the spring equinox marks the start of the new year, and is a time for renewal. Rebirth, growth, and creativity are not surprisingly important themes during this period. The myths of Persephone and Inanna, for example, both describe goddesses who are forced to descend into the land of the dead for half the year; spring was said to arrive with their return to the world of the living. It was a time to give thanks for the return of life.
The importance of both celebrating the return of spring and of blessing the crops for the coming year also transcends cultural and religious differences. Although the rituals and ceremonies may be very different in form, their essence is nonetheless the same; to celebrate the new crops that will sustain people over the coming year. In Thailand, for example, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May marks the beginning of the rice planting season. Two sacred oxen are used to plough a ritual field, and then are offered plates of foods that include rice, corn and vegetables. In the past, the oxen’s choices would be used to predict which crops would be most bountiful in the coming year. When I was researching this ceremony, I came across a special prayer service that was created to bless an urban farming project run by several Lutheran churches in San Francisco, and was struck by the importance such disparate groups place on marking the act of planting seeds so special.
It’s a way of calling our attention to the world around us. I don’t believe that we need to be religious, or follow any particular tradition to pay that kind of attention. And I believe that even as city-dwellers, we can find ways to mark the spring’s return.
The act of planting seeds is definitely one way that we can celebrate the transition from winter to spring. One contemporary idea that I found suggests that we plant seeds, and with each seed we also plant an idea. This might be something to learn or accomplish in the coming year. The seeds are a symbol. As they sprout under our care, our ideas will blossom if they are nurtured. Even in a modern urban setting, we have a place in the natural world and in the cycle of the seasons. Like eating seasonally, creating and recreating rituals to celebrate that cycle are ways that we can be more mindful of the planet.