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Adele Elliott: Rites of spring


Adele Elliott



Finally, spring! After such a difficult winter, it seems the world is filled with promise and truly ready for rebirth. 


The Hudsons, my neighbors across the street, have planted tulips and pansies around the house, and beneath an exquisite tree heavy with purple flowers. Their yard is an ocean of color, shimmering in the sunlight. After sunset, it glimmers under moonlight and reflects the subtle spark of indirect, man-made illumination. They should charge a viewing fee. 


One afternoon, my next-door friend, Jyl, and I watched a teenager steal a tulip from the yard. We gave her the glare before she progressed any further on her very minor crime spree. Still, who could blame her? Those bright flowers are very tempting. 


This week it was easy to understand the myth of Persephone, who emerged from the underworld, symbolizing the arrival of spring. I see her signs all around. The tips of our azalea bushes reveal just a bit of white, waiting to explode into bloom. Our yard, so dead from a season of cold and frost, is sprouting random tufts of green. 


This new season, celebrated all over the world''s northern hemisphere, is ancient, pre-Christian. Images of bunnies and eggs and flowers were all signs of fertility, long before modern children ever received an Easter basket stuffed with cellophane grass. 


Christians pay tribute to the rebirth of Christ. But, they have no exclusive on the concept. Almost every culture has a similar legend, an allegory of spring. 


The Greeks told of Orpheus, who descended into the underworld seeking his wife, Eurydice. He failed that, and returned, alone. Thousands of years BC, the Egyptians worshiped Osiris, who also came back from the dead. This deity was associated with cycles, particularly the seasonal flooding of the Nile, which consequently brought life to their arid region. 


Rituals to welcome spring take many forms. From bonfires to May Poles to hidden eggs, every society has some rite of renewal and resurrection. 


The Annapolis Maritime Museum practices an annual sock burning ceremony. It involves a paint roller tray and some lighter fluid at the end of a pier. A sack of oysters and a shucking knife are traditional fare in this not-so-solemn ceremony. What a way to declare that socks are no longer de rigueur! (Pay attention, all you residents of Columbus Marina.) 


Easter is truly a lovely time of year. No wonder this season has been honored by societies since before we even had civilization. The roots or origins of a custom matter not. Certainly, it''s hard to argue with a holiday that now includes frilly new hats and Cadbury eggs. 


The last few days have been warm enough to return to our personal ritual -- porch sitting. We light candles and plan our summer garden. Jyl and I have important conversations and act as security guards for the Hudsons'' tulips. (Such a responsibility!) 


I send Easter greetings to all Christians. And happy spring (or whatever) to Pagans, Muslims, Jews, Pantheists, and everyone else. May your world be filled with flowers and chocolate. And may you experience rebirth with each new day.


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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