The sun is bright, — the air is clear,
The darting swallows soar and sing.
And from the stately elms I hear
The bluebird prophesying Spring.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society Unit of The Herb Society of America
The great wheel of the year turns and faster than you can say “March hare,” the spring equinox or Vernal Equinox is upon us. True to the prose, March would appear to be coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, and none too soon for us Northerners. The first day of spring is a time to celebrate our rebirth and renewal, the soil is beginning to warm and flowers are emerging. When I still lived on a farm, I always knew when the equinox was approaching because a beautiful pussy willow would begin to bud out. I’d bring in armfuls of the fuzzy catkins and put them in tall vases all around the house.
Now trees are budding, birds are building nests, and flowers are popping up. The earth is trembling with the maternal energies that accompany spring renewal. Drive past a farm and you’ll begin to see baby goats and lambs skipping around fields. The rains are frequent and underground waters are springing upward. The other day I turned over a spade of dirt and discovered earthworms.
Spring cleaning work is calling. There are chicken coops to build, bee hotels, and a hive to put in.
To sooth those work angry muscles, fresh comfrey shoots are appearing. Lovage, perfect for stuffing a chicken, and asparagus, as a side dish, are peeking out. Garlic chives and leeks are readying for soups. Stems of licorice-flavored anise hyssop are waiting to become a soothing tea.
My biggest surprise is three ramps, sending shoots from where I lovingly planted them last spring. My favorite wild spring greens, they are actually flourishing in my yard. I won’t touch them this year, but by next spring I ought to be able to grab a handful for a wonderful wild onion pesto.
Spring and especially the energies of the spring equinox — when the day and night are equally balanced– heralds a great time to cleanse. It doesn’t have to be harsh, just a lightening up of sorts … a movement towards lighter, fresher foods is called for.
Wild greens like ramps, dandelions, violet leaves, chickweed, purslane, and stinging nettles will soon be everywhere and they’ll make a wonderfully cooling and tonic salad that you can dress simply with a bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt, olive oil, and lemon. (Remember to blanche nettles quickly in boiling water to remove the sting. Do try them, they are delicious and mineral rich.)
For a delicious springtime tonic try juicing these same greens with the addition of parsley, Swiss chard and, for a touch of sweetness, an apple or two. You can even add honey and lemon and a couple of carrots. This cooling and refreshing juice will rev up your system and get it feeling fun and frolicsome for the warm days ahead.
Green teas, iced and sparkling, with additions of fresh citrus fruits, berries, cucumber slices, and herbs –like basil, sage, and mint — are a wonderful aid for cleansing a system that’s sluggish from the denser foods of winter. A touch of raw honey during the cooling process will give you just enough sweetness and a lovely constant energy. Or, I use maple syrup in honor of the greening trees. The flavor is rich blended into tea and healthy, providing polyphenols to calm inflammation and antioxidants to boost the immune system.
The most important bit of spring-cleaning folklore that I swear by is to clean everything in your home in a clockwise direction to infuse it with a constant stream of positivity. As you clean, you’ll want to infuse rosemary essential oil into your environment for its ability to bring clarity. Meanwhile use lots of lemon oil and lemon juice for cleansing and stress relief. And, of course, in any magical household there would always be plenty of lavender strewn about to bring the best luck.
After cleaning I love to put bunches of daffodils and bright clusters of dandelions in antique blue mason jars and scatter them around the house. They make me happy as they draw the powerful energies of the sun into my home.
Tonight, with luck, we’ll get to see the magnificent full moon, fittingly named the earthworm moon. Know that this vernal equinox is a time of great energy. It is the time to write down your most closely held dreams and set some simple and intentional goals. As the light increases and the warmth returns to the earth, your intentions will gain power and your dreams will become reachable.
Celebrate by starting the gardening season. Plant seeds right now, even if it’s just a pot or two on your sunniest windowsill. Write down a wish or two on some recycled paper and place it into your potting soil. As you nurture your seedlings, you are nurturing your dreams.
Wishing you the most delightful, joy-filled, creative, and abundant spring!