I Don't Do Easter or Passover
But I still yearn for ancient ways to celebrate the changing seasons.
I’m so excited to get us settled in our new Substack home with a seasonal reflection and ritual. Reflections and rituals feel like us—how we’ve been doing things together for a long while. Speaking of how we’ve been doing things for a long while, I’ve cooked up something new, based on something old! You’ll find an intro at the bottom of this page. But, before we dive in, I wanted to report on how it’s going in our new Substack home ‘cause…
… we're two weeks into the launch of this newsletter! I have so much great stuff coming up especially for paid subscribers. There will be Unkempt Conversations, the new Mystic Files, and Ask Me Anythings. Don't miss out… Upgrade today!
…I LOVE it here. It makes me giddy. Creating for this space has been joyous, and hanging out with the Unkempt community is low-key, casual, easy, and just plain fun. But the biggest thing I’m noticing is I’m scrolling here instead of on Instagram (download the Substack app—it changes everything!). During the in-between moments of my day, I’m reading an article and getting inspired, gaining insight, and even calming my nervous system.
If you think what I’m saying is I’ll be spending more time on Substack and way less time everywhere else online, you’re reading me correctly. I hope you’ll become a paid subscriber (what I call a community member) to take advantage of all that this space has to offer, as well as supporting my work.
And now on to our regularly scheduled program!
Despite the weathered wood sign at the top of the drive, the one that says Lucky Landing, Andrew and I have started referring to our home as Frog Hollow.
Sometime in late February, when the forest is still dressed in grays and browns, we’ll be startled from sleep by the mating calls of the bullfrogs. The toads join in, singing counterpoint to jubilantly announce that—despite the trees’ bare limbs and the occasional snow flurry—winter has come to a close.
We’ve tried to sneak out and join the pond party but the frogs won’t have us, so instead we lay in bed and listen, wonderstruck. The raucous trilling lasts about a week. In its wake are eggs… a ridiculous amount of eggs. They’re black and white at first, but turn iridescent black as they grow. Then, in March, the ponds become a moving mass of tadpoles.
Before the trout lilies and the trillium, while the bears are still groggy, the frogs wake from hibernation. And so spring begins.
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As a person who has distanced herself from organized religion, I’ve found I still yearn for ways to mark the passage of time, to steep myself in rituals that feel more eternal than my mayfly life. I crave a chance to attune to something both ancient and elemental, something that reflects a universe larger than our human concerns.
The Judaism of my childhood never filled this need. So, during high school, I instead started celebrating the winter solstice. Now, I track the earth’s path round the sun, pausing to celebrate—or at least notice—the equinoxes and the solstices. Sometimes there’s ritual—a lit candle, a walk on the labyrinth I had built in the woods. Other times there’s reflection—a bit of thinking, writing, or maybe the reading of poetry. These small moments of stillness and syncing settle something within me; I begin to once again feel a part of a greater whole.
During the Spring Equinox, day and night balance each other. Energy is ascending. (If you don’t quite get what I mean, compare what’s going on in nature during the Spring Equinox with what’s going on in nature during the Autumn Equinox. Ascending in spring, descending in fall.)
Each year at this time, I find myself standing by the window, my fingers wrapped around a hot mug of tea looking out at the garden, searching for signs of new life. They’re subtle, now: lavender stems slowly shifting from gray to green, bloodroot testing the air, leaves curled like a tongue.
It’s still cold in these mountains. The wind still blowing snowflakes through the barren tree limbs. But the balance has shifted away from winter. I sip my tea and turn inward, seeking to find a matching resonance within myself. Sometimes in late winter, the energy is still small within me, a tiny cotyledon just beginning to awaken and stretch. Other years, there’s a vast upward propulsion, a huge sense of movement and wind-blown change.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, wind is often considered pernicious. It comes in from the outside, invading the body and causing illness. Called “the spearhead,” because it opens you up to damp and cold, wind is rarely seen as beneficent. But in Ayurveda, wind is not an outsider. It’s instead one of the primary bhutas (the five great elements), representing the forces of movement and change within us.
-from Letting Magic In (which will publish June, 2023)
I listen to the wind singing through the trees. Simply pausing and noticing is enough. There needn’t be more. It’s so easy to take on these moments as if they are something we must do, another item on the long list of what should be accomplish. But the equinoxes and the solstices are something we can be, deep within, if only we let ourselves.
For years now, I’ve shared seasonal reflection and ritual prompts to help readers connect with their own sense of the sacred. I’d like to continue that tradition here on Unkempt.
What does Spring look like for you, personally? Think of the season, but also the archetypes associated with it. See if they sync up for you.
When are you expanding, “reaching for air,” sprouting new ideas?
How do these sensations feel in your body?
How do you know when it’s time to expand and grow?
All you have to do is notice. You might find you have a sense of growth and renewal in a different season entirely. And that’s beautiful. That’s you. You don’t need to do anything about it. Reflect on how it feels to be in the season you’re in.
What? you ask.
Anything, I reply. Begin cleaning your closet or taking morning walks. Start a gratitude journal or reading poetry before bed.
Do it intentionally. Make a beginning.
How do you make a beginning?
You light a candle, or read a poem, or simply state what you will do aloud three times. You tell a friend or build an altar or say a prayer. You put a little energy into the start of this new thing, building your own capacity for newness and wonder and change.
I’ll start a community thread in the next few days so we can chat about what we’ve each discovered.
Announcing: The Mystic Files, Episode 001
Welcome to The Mystic Files, a curated search to unearth forgotten treasures and revisit ideas from past programs and writings, exploring them from a fresh, present-day perspective.
In this very first episode of The Mystic Files, we’ll explore one of my most popular (and searched for) blog posts, This is How I Call Myself Home. You’ll read the original post then jump into the audio where I get questioned by my friend Shannon about how this post does or doesn’t resonate for now! (Fun, right? I’ve been sooo excited about this!)
Paid community members: hop over to listen to the first installment of The Mystic Files!
As a spiritual, but non-religious person myself, I really love the idea of creating my own times and ways of celebrating... whether it's celebrating the seasons (or even something that means nothing to anyone but me)... it feels freeing!