Yesterday, suddenly, the coltsfoot began blooming along the side of the road, brilliant yellow amid the dull piles of gravel and sand from winters’ plow-trucks. The last piles of snow in the woods are receding, giving way to the thousands of tiny trout lilies poking up bravely through the matted leaves. And last night, above the sound of the raging creek, still muddied and thick with snowmelt, I heard the voice of the hermit thrush for the first time since last year. A trilling, spiraling, warbling waterfall of music, it stilled me completely and I stood on the porch with no coat on, listening with my whole body.
It seems that spring is finally here, in all its bright colors and its dinginess, in all its dissonance and its harmony. And we are almost to the end of that “cruelest month” of April, which means, thankfully, that it is almost time for Beltane.
Beltane, considered the beginning of summer in Europe, is, for us Vermonters, a celebration of spring’s triumph over a long (seven months long this year!) winter. We will be lucky to have daffodils to put in our May crowns this year, and luckier still if the ground is thawed fully enough to plant into the earth that divine symbol of regeneration and fertility: The Maypole.
Each year, as my ancestors have done for centuries, we have a Beltane festival to welcome the return of spring and to celebrate life, love, and community. It is always joyful to see everyone’s faces after the long winter. Many of us who live far from town have been hibernating for months, isolated by the deep snow and thick ice. As we encircle the Maypole, we look around, grateful for our friends, our family, our interconnection.
The Maypole is the central symbol of our celebration, representing not only fertility and sacred union, but also the colorful interweaving of our human communities, the ecosystems where we dwell, and the unseen worlds around and within us. The Maypole dance is a dance of relationship, a remembrance of the interweaving of the world, a celebration of the delicious entanglement of being alive on earth.
In yogic philosophy, this entanglement is known as the Tantra. Tantra means web or weaving. It is the premise of Tantric yoga, that we are all connected, woven together in a beautiful, wild pattern, too grand for us to see all at once. This shimmering web of consciousness holds, supports, and nourishes us, and we are each an inexorable part of it. Each one of us is necessary to the pattern. And none of us is alone. The web is made of love, saprema.
On Beltane, we each hold the end of a ribbon attached to a wreath at the top of the Maypole. We begin to spiral around, half of us going one way and half the other, ducking and dancing around each other, over and under, over and under, the ribbons begin to interweave, creating a beautiful pattern around the pole. If the ribbons were all the same color, the pattern would not be apparent. But, because of the diversity of the colorful ribbons, the pattern emerges brilliantly as we dance around and around. We honor the differences that make the beauty of this world. It is this revelation of the unique strands weaving together into one pattern that makes us remember our unity, our one-ness.
And so we dance the spiral dance of life. And, as every culture on this earth has at one point recognized, we are not just dancers; we are danced and we are the dance itself.
On this Beltane, this magical moment between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, consider the unique offering you wish to make to your community, human or otherwise. What contribution, humble or magnificent do you intend to bring forth more fully as the sun strengthens and the days grow longer?
And consider, too, how you are supported by this web that sweetly encircles you. Give thanks for the connections, the nourishment, the support and sustenance that come with this gift of entanglement.
Pause and take a deep breath. Your breath is like a sacred thread that weaves together inner and outer worlds, microcosm and macrocosm. Your inhale, your inspiration, is the exhale of the trees. With every breath you release, you offer a gift in return.
Remember that the whole universe is woven wonderfully around you, a wild, cosmic embrace that binds you not only to your friends and family, but also to the trout lilies in the forest and to the forest itself. The hermit thrush is part of you just as its voice is part of the tumbling stream of snowmelt and silt. Remember that your heart's rhythm is part of that same song and that the blood that flows through your veins in ancient spirals is part of that same stream. The coltsfoot by the side of the road, and even the road itself, the same road which you make by walking, is all part of the great, diverse tapestry of existence of which you are an intricate, precious part.
On this Beltane, remember that you are never alone. You are surrounded by, and made of, Love. And now is the perfect time to celebrate that!
Blessed be and may your new season be joyous and delightful!
Saprema (with Love), Lydia