Happy Beltane! Today, May 1st, is the midpoint between spring and summer and is considered a “turning point among nature-based faiths.” This year, I’ve become more and more drawn to the timing of nature when it comes to both health and spirituality (i.e. it took me 25 years to find out that 28-day menstrual cycles correspond to the phases of the moon; and to be honest the more I learn about my birth chart the more my jaw drops with how accurate a depiction it is of my inner essence). And even though part of me wishes it were Fall all-year-round, I love the symbolism of the change of seasons and how each one demands different aspects of ourselves to emerge. While my spiritual and religious beliefs are an ever-expanding and evolving part of my life, becoming more informed about the role that nature plays in our lives has given me a lot of groundedness during a year that felt like an intense upheaval and uprooting (nature puns intended all around). Beltane traditionally signifies the start of summer as it’s the midway mark between the spring equinox and summer solstice, but this post is more about changing seasons generally, and the shift from winter to spring specifically.
It’s so easy to become disconnected from nature when living in a city. To be honest, though, I think that no matter where you live, the pervasiveness of technology can disconnect us from these rhythmic cycles. When I was younger, I loved winter because it meant snow (and snow days), Christmas, Winter Break, and cozy time spent at home. As I’ve gotten older, though, and winters have become more and more harsh, instead of savoring the coziness of winter, I find myself itching for the relief of spring. There’s always a point each year when I finally start to feel the warmth of the sun again and I immediately begin playing this Local Natives favorite on a loop (which is always coupled with the intense urge to move to California). The warmth feels like possibility, like a long hug after not having been touched for far too long, like a mini-New Year. I often wonder what it’s like to live in a place where this warmth is the default setting. But the truth is: I love the seasons. All of them. I love them to different degrees, sure, but I love how cyclical they are, and how they remind us to treasure what’s right in front of us before it’s gone again (until its return the following year).
As the weather has started to get a bit more bearable here in Boston, I’ve been trying to take daily walks on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall as opposed to inside the gym. The first few times I went, nothing was in bloom. The sun was out, sure, but spring had not really shown her face yet. The last two weeks, however, have changed all of that. Trees are blooming and I can feel the actual warmth of the sun. There are more cliches about this than I can count, but those first few weeks of walking when the trees were still barren and the sun wasn’t quite palpable yet only made me appreciate spring’s bloom more once it finally appeared.
I think we all have a tendency to want to push winter away, to push the darkness away. To be honest, this winter was probably the most difficult winter of my life, emotionally speaking. Sure, the weather was frigid, but more than that, I faced challenges, rejection, and heartbreak in all areas of my life, personal and professional. I’m talking next level getting-your-heart-ripped-out-of-your-chest heartbreak and rejection. All I wanted was some relief and to finally feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Instead, more winter came. It was relentless and I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, but I marched on. Okay, I didn’t march on. I took baby steps on and I nurtured myself with Epsom salt baths and face masks, and basically any and everything I could think of that would nurture my spirit in some small way. I cried more than I think I ever have in such a short period of time in my life. I’m talking audibly-weeping-on-the-bathroom-floor-while-listening-to-Death-Cab crying. My heart cracked open, and I released so many old feelings and insecurities and pain that I never fully realized was stowed away in my heart. It was incredibly painful and incredibly cathartic. As much as I wanted to avoid or push this season away and just skip to spring, I needed to go through what this winter was here to teach me.
This afternoon I was taking a study break and I opened the blinds of one of my windows up all the way. I could see so much of the sky and the sun was present, but not at all blinding. I stood there and my eyes started to fill with tears – not out of emotion, but just because of the brightness of the sky itself. Immediately, I thought back to when I lived in New York in a tiny studio apartment facing a courtyard where I could only have dreamed of seeing a bright sky, let alone the actual sun. Every few months, a sliver of sunlight would peek through the blinds and I would quickly savor it before it was gone.
As I came back to the present and kept taking in the sky, so many feelings came to mind. I remember when I lived in New York I kept saying “my next apartment is going to have so much sunlight.” I manifested it or willed it to be, whichever phrasing you prefer. I instinctually knew how valuable sunlight was to my well-being back then, and I was intentional in voicing how much I wanted it in the next space I would live in. It came true ten-fold – there are often days now where the sun coming into my apartment here in Boston is far too strong. The message here, of course, is that I appreciate it so much more because I once didn’t have it. That is the beauty of winter. It’s dark and it feels barren. The pain and discomfort it causes feels unnecessary and cruel. But then when spring finally comes, you realize that if it were not for the winter, the beauty and relief of spring would mean nothing to you.
I love the idea of seasons because I love the idea that everything that happens in our lives has divine purpose and timing. I love the idea of seasons because they teach us to savor what’s in front of us, even and especially when it hurts. They teach us to trust that no matter how uncomfortable or painful winter is, new growth will come in spring. When I stood in my apartment looking out the window, I felt pain from looking into the bright spring sky. It hurt to look at, but it’s exactly what I asked for all those years ago. This winter was an emotional upheaval for me. I shed so many things that were lying dormant within my psyche, and as painful as it was, I think it was exactly what I asked for. When we sign a contract for spring, we are also signing a contract for winter.
I read this post by the wise angel that is Jedediah Jenkins today on Instagram and it resonated deep within my soul. At the end he states:
The beauty of nature is in its million competing intentions, all quilted together. The orchestra of it.
A friend of mine and I were talking about this the other day. He said ‘every thing in your life serves the story. Just like theater. At the end of the play, every actor takes a bow. All of them. The hero. The villain. Because it’s not a story without all of them. And we all stand up and clap. Often moved to tears.’
When you sign up for joy, you sign up for pain. And when you experience pain, it enables you to feel the joy that you asked for to a higher degree. That is the paradox of life. Nature provides us with what we need when we need it, and it demands different things from us at different times. I love that idea that “every thing in your life serves the story.” Winter serves the story. Spring serves the story. The darkness serves the story. The light serves the story. They can each serve your story and your evolution, if you so let them. They can move us to tears for different reasons and in different ways, and they each demand our gratitude and applause. Without them, our story wouldn’t be a story at all.
Happy Beltane! May this Spring be a much needed reprieve for all of us – a time to revel deeper into the joy that would not be possible without the pain that came before it.