The steep darkness of a silent, cold Winter can only sustain such strength of contraction for so long. As the wheel of the year turns, the density that has folded in upon itself for months must finally cleave its frozen, shadowed bonds and here, in the Northeastern woodlands, Spring rises from the release of natures iced embrace with an offering of warmth for the hearts and souls of the people.
Once upon a time these awakenings were well marked by magic and ritual as our clans and communities knew that if place and time were to be an instrument for conscious creation, it must be held by the storied, dreaming, dance and play of those that waited and watched as new life teemed upon the surface.
The underground realms of the plants and all the rooted ones know the precise moment to lift up as the savory, melting, sap and snow from above send notice to the sleeping currents and call the shoots to stir and the buds to soften. Their rituals have never stopped and their magic remains intact.
I know this to be true because every Spring I long for something that was lost to my generation and many generations before me. The ancestor people who lived with the Earth and not merely upon it felt Spring as an embodied motion of nature and spirit. I can only imagine that they didn’t just notice the coming of Spring as a side bar to human-centered mundane activities of production and material achievement, but they became it, as well as the newly opened leaves, the pollen-drenched wind, and the water running down from the top of the mountains. It’s more than a longing for, it’s a lifetime and many lifetimes of mythical famine, a hunger, a starvation for the breath of enchantment and the felt sense of belonging to the growing rays of sunlight and the incense of the Spring ephemerals.
I find the sincerest relief, delight, and connection among the flowers and shrubs of the vernal forest. The word ephemeral speaks of the quick life cycle and transitory pattern that come and go quickly.
It’s a celebration in flowers, a wild Spring festival that explodes in blossoms and color with swift intensity.
The origins of “ephemeral” are found in the Greek root eph meaning “upon, over or beside” and ephemermeaning “temporary” with the Middle English suffix –al meaning “relating to, pertaining to, of, like” and was first intended to refer to lifespan. What is ephemeral relates to what is temporarily upon life and is now used to define anything that is short-lived. My experiences with the Spring ephemerals has led me to a deeper meaning that includes the brief and temporary flowering of these plants but also the impermanence of their beauty and presence as if they are not quite solid or stationary but more essence in motion.
As the seasons turn we do not stay still but dance and whirl as time drops and lifts the breezes. We too shall one day wilt and fall upon the soils. So let’s celebrate!
The photos are from my Kuyahoora Valley walks in the Adirondack foothills as well as my hikes in the Central Adirondack region. These are all Spring ephemerals that are also native species and endangered so they are sacred on many levels.