You don’t need to be Jewish or Christian to celebrate. The pagan roots of spring time are calling. It’s time to listen.
Neither a practicing Christian, nor Jewish, I woke on this Easter/Passover Sunday with a gnawing sense that something needed to happen in my family — something that preferably did not have to do with sugar. We returned from vacation Saturday night and my twin, 9 year old boys would have happily played nerf basketball and jumped on the trampoline all day. Our bags were still packed, breakfast had been scrambled together from the slim pickings in the fridge. The nerf ball had been missed, yes, but the chorus of whines begging me to drive to the store for a chocolate egg or some gummy bears felt just around the corner.
With an embarrassing lack of imagination, I sat down at my computer to see if I could find some meaningful video on the resurrection. Five minutes in, after finding absolutely NOTHING of meaning, I remembered what a friend told me last year that I disturbingly learned for the first time. Something I had somehow forgotten.
Easter was originally a celebration of Eostre, the Goddess of Spring. It was a celebration of rebirth, of overcoming, of fertility. Long before Jesus and the liberation of the Jews there was the miracle each spring of this amazing earth we live on — this BODY of earth that dies back in the winter and comes to life each year, again.
This forgetting is a side-effect of patriarchy. A going numb to myself and to what I love. The gnawing sense I felt Easter morning came from somewhere beyond the Bible, it came through the windows of our house, the sunlight pouring in, the new celedon growth bursting forward on the bright green trees. All that generosity, creativity and resilience!
We, as humans, need to do nothing for all this. This green revolution of dynamic growth and aliveness happens each year by the grace of something far greater than us. No one presses the “on” button and nowhere can we find a price-tag.
It’s free. (For now…)
I decide it is time to take my boys for a walk outside. They welcome the idea. Some part of them knows, too. We leave the house and, without prompting, they point out the colors of the flowers we pass on our way to the basketball court. Look at this purple one, mommy.
I tell my son as we walk — a boy who eats, sleeps and breathes life through an orange round and black ball and a hoop — “Did you know we wouldn’t have basket ball without the earth?” I am grateful he listens. “I don’t get it. What do earth and basketball have to do with each another?”
My answer is obvious. “Well, without the earth, we wouldn’t be here, right? And if we weren’t here, there wouldn’t be basketball.”
For a nine year old boy, this is actually an essential connection to make. Essential given the climate he is inheriting. Everything, after all, depends on the well being of this tender, beautiful and fertile planet.
In the patriarchal traditions there is little mention of these deep feminine, earthly origins. The patriarchal heist morphed them into painted eggs, candy and bunnies. The stories in both Judaism and Christianity were written by men, about men and are peopled mostly by men. They, too, are sorely disconnected from the earth. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that men are bad — they are just as much a part of the glory as anything else. But the beliefs of the patriarchal worldview that was erected to serve them takes from us the truths that are our birthright.
While the feminine is present in many elements of the Christian story, (including Jesus’ vulnerability, his surrendering to ‘not knowing’, his embodied suffering, his labor and deliverance), women and the earth-itself-play bit parts, if they are mentioned at all. Could this be any more terribly, upside-down?
My boys and I visit the local, schoolyard farm by the basketball courts. Walking through the lush growth and the tables of starters, we arrive at the chicken coop. We feed the chickens crackers through the wire fence and watch the patient hen who remains in her cubby, laying her egg. This is an Easter I can love.
As the boys ran off towards the row of rocketing broccoli, I turned my attention to what I wanted to honor — for myself and with my children:
I honor the body — my body and all the human bodies, so unique and loyal, that give us access to life. I honor the body of the earth, itself. Our bodies and the-earth-as-body are on-goingly sacrificed in response to the sins of others. Our bodies generously absorb the painful memories of hurt and loss in our muscles and sinews and yet also give us the sensitivity to feel pleasure, subtlety, dynamism and tenderness — the capacity to heal.
I honor the fertilized eggs that grew into my two, beautiful sons. Boys who grew in my body through the grace of life itself. When did this cease to be miraculous?! As I watch those boys now, no longer in the garden but huffing and puffing in pirouettes on the tarmac beneath the hoop, I feel the cool air on my face and honor my breath as it meets my lungs. Spirit. This breathing is the miracle that connects us intrinsically, intimately to the trees we depend on for every precious moment we are alive. Bodies and breath.
And here, I honor the deep feminine that lives in our bodies and life and that lies buried beneath our Western traditions. I honor the (r)evolution underway in the deepening resolve of all the courageous, loving women and men who are hard at work crafting the visions for a new era: the workers at the farmer’s markets and community gardens, the alternative economy pioneers, the activists, the artists, poets and songwriters… the new, young parents who want to do it differently.
I honor *that* springtime, the re-birth getting forged in the dark days of this political winter.
Because, while spring is the gift that – for now- keeps on giving, we don’t get our human rebirth for free. Our resurrection calls on us to first engage with an honest reckoning. It calls on us to turn *towards* suffering and, with courage, tenderness and a flame for life, it calls on us to tend (like the women who tended to Christ) to our hard-working, symptomatic bodies. Those who engage this hard reckoning, those who let the stories unfold and persevere through the winter? …In time, they recieve a gift from the darkness.
Healing. The return to our birthright, our original vitality. A vitality my two boys have in spades as they prance around each other, laughing in the brisk, sunlit, mid-morning air. A vitality I feel as I leave the absurduty of my computer search behind me and claim the specialness of the day outdoors. How does something this immediate, obvious, indispensible and beautiful lose its value to us so easily? This gift we forget to remember that is right in front of us and that we are given each day.
In honoring the body, my body — the human body and the body of the earth — my gratitude guides me to engage honestly with our all-too-human sins against the earth. The earth as the gift that asks for nothing and yet keeps on giving.
May we find the courage and love to face our sins against this earth. Honestly. The courage to face the suffering and the grief. May we do so in the service of preservation. Preserving — for the future — the generous coming of Spring.