Chipping Sparrow eggs in my front hedge. Photo copyright - Margaret Buffie
Easter celebrates the coming of spring, of renewal, of change and of hope. We need all of those now! Like most of our ancient traditions, many of the symbols of Easter lie in pagan celebrations.
Rabbits, for instance, come from the pagan festival of Eostre, which celebrated a German goddess - Ostara (Eostre) - the goddess of birth, fertility and spring. Her symbol was a hare or rabbit. The exchange of eggs is also an ancient pagan custom, celebrated by many cultures. And eggs are also symbolic renewal, fertility and hope. According to the English monk Bede, the former pagans in England called April, or the month marking Jesus’s resurrection, “Ēosturmōnaþ” — Old English for the “Month of Ēostre.” In the Old Testament, the Israelites baked sweet buns for their favourite idols, and of course, the early christian leaders were angered by sacred cakes being baked at Eostre. In the end, realizing they could not stop the cooks who refused to listen to them, they gave up and blessed the cakes instead. Later this tradition was transformed into a variety of acceptable "Christian" bread forms - having a cross marked on each cake or loaf of bread. As my mother was English, and attended Sparling United Church in the West End, she always made hot cross buns. But as an adult, I also began to make Easter bread - Paska - to celebrate the German half of my family. Both recipes use a lot of eggs.
I didn't know the history of the colouring of eggs so I looked it up. This is part of what Wikipedia says: Easter eggs, also called Paschal eggs, are decorated eggs that are usually used as gifts on the occasion of Easter of springtime celebration. As such, Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide (Easter season). The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs wrapped in colourful foil, or plastic eggs filled with confectionary such as chocolate. Although eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which Jesus resurrected.In addition, one ancient tradition was the staining of Easter eggs with the colour red "in memory of the blood shed at the time of his crucifixion.This custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopatamia, and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches. This Christian use of eggs may have been influenced by practices in "pre-dynastic period in Egypt, as well as amid the early cultures of Mesopotamia and Crete". My family has coloured Easter eggs for as long as I can remember. Simple plain colours.When I was a child, our parents would hide the hardboiled red, blue, yellow, purple and green eggs all around the house and we would search for them. one basket for each of us was also hidden and filled with a variety of candy and usually one large rabbit from our local chocolatier, Mordens Candies. Bliss.
Online photo. Photographer unknown.
As I grew older I experimented with the simple colours. When I had a family of my own - and as an artist - I tried different ideas for fun. Here are a few results....
"There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
I've looked at snow "from both sides now, from up and down" to quote the great Joni Mitchel, but I do know snow. I grew up in Manitoba.
Huge sloppy flakes, tiny beads that sting your face, curtains of snow, drifts of snow, hard layers of city snow like prehistoric layered ice and earth, soft snow that you fall back into without fear; crystal snow that creeps with icy fingers onto your neck between your parka and your scarf; that freezes your toes in your ice skates; that burns your face, cuts deep into your wrists just above your mitts and numbs your silly nyloned legs on the way to school.
And I see it. I see how it transforms my garden, my city, my street. I long to see it more often at the lake where we spend so much of our summer.
I know the colours of snow in light and in the dark. I know the long shadows that fall across it: clear shades of blue; dust gray, mouse brown, sun pink, green tinged, sheer frosted white, and dirty sand brown. And when it begins to melt I recognize the pockmarks than deepen in the snow that mean a thaw is at work.
I know snow's indescribable smells - early snow that smell of earth and sun - and late snow in the city with the dark moist smells of tar and sand. At the lake cottage there will be the smell pine and the echoes of mouldering leaves feeding the earth below. I've tasted snow. I've felt it, formed it and built with it.
My memories of lake visits always start with cross country skiing in; of the cottage floor and walls covered in frost until the fire gets hot enough to warm the wood; cutting and bashing through ice for water; snowshoeing through the woods dodging clumps of snow that slide off the spruce and balsam trees onto knitted caps and shoulders, and the whap whap of it falling off our warming roof to the ground below. Most of all, the deep silence broken only now and again by hushed breezes and distant bird chirrups in the night.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds' wings;
Season of ice, this is my news."
- Irish poem, 9th Century
My Street in early winter
copyright Margaret Buffie
"Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of
winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them."
Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow.
"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you ..... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself." Ruth Stout
The shed of leaves became a cascade of red and gold and after a time the trees stood skeletal against a sky of weathered tin. The land lay bled of its colors. The nights lengthened, went darker, brightened in their clustered stars. The chilled air smelled of woodsmoke, of distances and passing time. James Carlos Blake