Walking the dog this morning, I was struck by the suddenly mild temperatures, the birds singing just past dawn and the light fragrance of honeysuckle on the air. Within a few minutes, I had a gentle smile on my face and wondered why I don’t spend even more time outdoors. No matter what may be going wrong in my world, a simple walk around the neighborhood — in the company of trees, ravens and squirrels — always makes me feel better.
I’d forgotten that today is the Vernal Equinox — when light and dark are said to be equal — and this pleasant stroll seemed the perfect way to begin Ostara, the Pagan holiday marking the renewal of the Earth each year.
As one of the quarters of the year, the Vernal Equinox is a great time to do periodic chores around the house — from turning the mattress to clearing out cobwebs. You can give your home an excellent spring cleaning without the use of potentially toxic commercial cleansers. Tried-and-true agents baking soda, vinegar and water will get the job done and leave your home feeling and smelling fresh and clean without artificial fragrances.
(If you do like a bit of fragrance, add a few drops of essential oil to your home-made cleansers.)
Smudging is another fine way to clear out the mustiness of winter when it’s time to open up the house in spring. Smudge sticks are made with dried sage, sweetgrass and other herbs that are tied together into a bundle. The smudge stick — or smudge wand — acts like a large stick of incense that you can carry with you to literally “smoke out” the stagnation of winter from the corners and recesses of your home.
Smudging is also appropriate for blessing new homes and new enterprises — another perfect fit for spring, the season of new beginnings.
There’s lots to be done outside the house as well. Gardening and fence repair are usual favorites, but don’t forget the world that lies beyond your property bounds. For many, this is the beginning of recreational hiking season. Trekking through the woods and other wild areas is a great way to appreciate nature and keep your body healthy and strong, but even normal wear on trails can take a toll.
I keep meaning to volunteer for a trail repair project close to home — Portland has Forest Park, home to abundant wildlife, natural areas and the 30-mile Wildwood hiking trail — but haven’t been able to fit these programs into my schedule. Today, Ostara is the perfect time to put trail maintenance into my calendar now, before my time fills up with other activities and obligations.
Be sure to visit Míchealín Daugherty’s Ostara page for more great ideas on how to incorporate concern for the environment into your holiday festivities.