Despite all this snow, let’s talk about spring. I’ve been so busy shoveling that March has sort of surprised me. Spring really is coming.
I’m looking forward to marking the spring equinox with a half-day spring dance retreat. I’ve been cooped up and I look forward to this antidote to cabin fever.
But I also want to propose that we will dance not simply to celebrate the meteorological arrival of spring. I believe that dancing is also part of helping spring happen.
The idea of helping spring happen might sound silly because we know that the orbit of earth will predictably lead to longer and warmer days. Yet what if we thought of spring as a child? Generally we can trust children to grow up. Yet how we grow up and the quality of our lives depends a lot on the love and support that we receive. Why would this be any different for all the tender life that prepares to emerge in spring?
My reflections arise out of my continuing process of learning how to live in a spirit of reciprocity. Deep giving and receiving are the antidotes I seek to our consumerist and extractive culture. I was recently reading a blog post by Carol Christ exploring how to apply the value of reciprocity to environmental ethics and she offered a useful example to my point.
In her article Christ sites Robin Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass, in particular this story about how human interaction helps nature flourish:
“Robin Wall Kimmerer writes that sweetgrass, used by indigenous peoples to make baskets, is disappearing from places where it used to grow. The basket makers asked for her help as a botanist. They told her that sweetgrass is harvested by some by pulling it up from the roots and by others by pinching off the grass above the roots. In either case only some of the sweetgrass was taken, leaving enough to regenerate the field. The basket weavers wanted to know which method was better for the sweetgrass.
Robin’s graduate student Laurie designed an experiment in which some sweetgrass would be harvested by one method, some by the other, and some fields would not be harvested at all. Laurie expected that one method of harvesting would lead to better results. What she found was that harvesting sweetgrass by either method resulted in healthy fields, while not harvesting at all caused the fields to decline. The experiment showed that human intervention using traditional methods was actually good for sweetgrass.”
I suspect that intangible acts, such as spiritual practices that strengthen our connection to the earth, have an impact on the natural world just as harvesting does. I think it would be interesting to do an experiment for different fields in a garden. Dance in one area. Practice qigong in another area. For scientific purposes one field would be untouched. I imagine that as with the sweetgrass, the only field that would be performing less well would be the field un-touched by any practice that strengthens the reciprocal connection between the humans and the earth.
Heck, if you know someone with the right sort of garden or farm, I’d love to test this theory.
Joy and Community
Joy and community are powerful ways to strengthen any aspect of our lives. They can support not just the greening of spring, but also visionary projects like the Green New Deal.
Especially when we are overwhelmed, feeling unable to keep up and aware of the enormity of the collective work before us, let’s not forget joy and community. They might be the secret to ease and effectiveness.
Joy and community are practices, we cannot expect them to simply happen. We need to commit to cultivating these qualities and continually improve. Which means there is even more joy and more connection available to us than we can imagine now. May we have a vital spring, and may we have a vital renewing of the spirit of humanity.
With love and joy,
Spring Dance Retreat Early Bird Registration Ends on Monday March 4
Join in the ancient tradition of helping the world come alive in spring – Saturday March 23, 11-5, lunch included. Register now.
Practice Joy and Community Every Week
Join in any week to the Wisdom Dances dance circle, based in Laura Shannon’s research on traditional dances as tools for healing and transformation, or Healing Waters Qigong Practice Group, based in Spring Forest Qigong.