Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Promise of Spring--Let There Be Light

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring (at least officially) and I decide to go for a walk in my neighbourhood, in search of Gaia’s promises of rebirth. In my own garden, the crocuses are blooming already and the tulips are not far behind. But I’m in search of what Nature is doing.
I set out at around six in the evening, stepping out of my house into the brisk air whose breath of winter still lingers like mist on a mountain. It’s a short walk to the Ladner Marsh and I am soon inhaling the organic aroma of mud, edged with the sharpness of salt water as I pull my jacket closed. I take a well worn path along the saltwater marsh, thick with boats of all kinds along the maze of wharves that extend from the road across.
On the other side of the path, the marsh has been left to grow naturally. I stop here and there to observe the signs of spring and hear the fragile rustle of last year’s dried grass in the bracing wind. I spot pussy willows bursting into eager bloom amid the dark crags of winter hibernation. Blackberries send their itinerant runners coiling around stout tree trunks, looking for the promise of sunshine. The red osier dogwood bursts into diaphanous green amid a spray of crimson branches.

I take in a deep breath, inhaling the acrid scent of moist soil, then crouch to view the new blades of grass and wild flowers as they thrust up through a bed of decaying leaves. The persistent cacophony of song birds serenade me with the excited chatter of new beginnings. Or maybe it’s just a last winter party…

I lift my gaze to the majestic cottonwood trees. Their slender branches yawn up like arms stretching toward the heavens, offering up their scented catkins to the sun. The sky steadily deepens as the sun dips down. I make it to the main dock and hear the constant lap of water against the wharf, reminding me of the never-ending renewal of nature. A winter of contemplation yields to the spring of action. Growth. Reproduction. Change. The sun’s flame dies and my hands grow chilled as I photograph the trees, now dark silhouettes against an intense blush of ochre and indigo. Soon those bare branches will be thick with foliage.

Spring is my season. I was born in the spring. I’ve been fascinated by the spring, from the time I was little in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and experienced firsthand how the season “sprang” literally in a day: one day it was winter with wind and snow; and the next day it was spring with a burst of green leaf and flower. The drama of the seasons plays itself so well there. Here, in British Columbia, it is more subtle. But just as pleasing. And just as incredible.

Spring is a time of change. It brings with it a calamitous end to a deep and silent winter and heralds in a new season of vigorous growth with a wondrous rejoicing of song and dance. This is when Nature sings; anything from a sweet aria to the beating song of a powerful concerto. Depending on where you live, spring can bring with it violent change in the form of more frequent tornadoes or hurricanes or flooding. Severe weather occurs when warm air invades from lower latitudes while cold air is still pushing from the polar regions. Flooding is also most common in and near mountainous areas during this time of year because of snowmelt, many times accelerated by warm rains. In the United States, Tornado Alley is most active this time of year, especially since the Rocky Mountains prevent the surging hot and cold air masses from spreading eastward and instead force them directly at each other. Besides tornadoes, supercell thunderstorms can also produce dangerously large hail and very high winds, for which a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning is usually issued. The hurricane season officially begins in late spring, on May 15 in the northeastern Pacific and June 1 in the northern Atlantic. Before these dates, hurricanes are almost unheard of and even tropical storms are rare, one of the earliest ever being Tropical Storm Ana in mid-April 2003. Even in June, hurricanes are uncommon because 21 of June's days are spring days.

Yes, change. You've heard of spring fever, no doubt experienced it...perhaps are experiencing it now; that feeling of restlessness, excitement or even laziness that accompanies the change in weather. A disruptive time when, according to mother and author, Teri Mauro, good weather brings on bad behavior (she was referring to children, but I wouldn't necessarily limit it to children). Mauro calls it the silly season, punctuated by whacky behaviour, brought on by allergies, often drastic weather changes, increases in light and our own physiology.

Increased light is Nature's own aphrodisiac. "Forget about herbs and ginseng," says John Illman of Channel 4. "The changing ratios of light and darkness ... invariably put the whole animal kingdom into a quiver. The advent of electric lighting did not render us humans immune from this rite of spring."

Illman mentions our "third eye", the pineal gland. The pineal gland was the last endocrine gland to have its function discovered. Its location deep in the brain seemed to indicate its importance and led to its being a "mystery" gland with myth, superstition and even metaphysical theories surrounding its perceived function. The gland is activated by light, and it controls the various biorhythms of the body. It works with the hypothalamus gland which directs the body's thirst, hunger, sexual desire and the biological clock that determines our aging process.

The Pineal Gland is about the size of a pea, and is located in the center of the brain in a tiny cave behind and above the pituitary gland which lies a little behind the root of the nose. It's located directly behind the eyes, attached to the third ventricle, and secretes of a hormone, melatonin, that helps maintain daily and seasonal breeding cycles in animals. The true function of this mysterious gland has long been contemplated by philosophers and Spiritual Adepts. Ancient Greeks believed the pineal gland to be our connection to the Realms of Thought. René Descartes, who dedicated much time to the study of the pineal gland, called it the "seat of the soul". He believed that it was the point of connection between the intellect and the body. The pineal gland is occasionally associated with the sixth chakra (also called Ajna or the third eye chakra) or sometimes the Seventh (Crown) chakra. It is believed by some to be a dormant organ that can be awakened to enable telepathic communication.

Whether its your pineal gland "awakening" to a higher frequency or whether you are simply enjoying Nature's awakening, or preparing to celebrate Easter and Christ's resurrection or doing all of these, I wish you a happy, vibrant and joyful Spring.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Spring is so uplifting, Nina. After the coldness of winter, new life can emerge to a brighter and warmer world.

sfgirl said...

Well said, Jean-Luc! I am so enjoying the sunshine and the warmth. It was lovely going for a walk just in a sweater for a change...How's the weather over in your part of the world? I know that much of my country (eastern Canada) is still covered in snow...

rino said...

Thanks for letting us your readers accompany you on this walk. I enjoyed the sights and smell you were describing and I am filled with envy that you are able to experience such high on a spring morning! Indeed, it's all very dramatic and exciting.

sfgirl said...

It is, Rino... and magical too. For me, the spring season represents so much of what it means to be alive. It starts off with the bracing March winds that sweep us up, awakening from our winter inactivity... Of course, my husband lately translated that into the need to mow the lawn...ah, the chores of summer...