Spring is here. Life may be blooming all around you, or perhaps just starting to bud. In Alabama, spring brings the dread of tornadoes, but I also have something to look forward to: the pear tree in my backyard.
Pears will not appear until summer, but spring is when I start to pay closer attention to the rhythms of the tree: its rise from dormancy, the dead branches that did not survive the winter, the tiny flowers that welcome the hardworking bees, and the ripening fruit that calls to pesky wasps. My connection to the pear tree grounds me in nature, the rhythms of the earth. It forces me to acknowledge that “to everything, there is a season"--and yes, even to adjust my life to fit the seasons, although in our age of central air and heat, and hothouse produce, we have lost some of that need and pleasure.
Spring brings the budding and flowering, renewal and rebirth. Yet it also brings thunderstorms, destruction, and sometimes death. How close the association, how dependent these acts are on one another, as some of the springtime religious holidays seem to reflect. Easter, of course, commemorates a supernatural reversal of the natural cycle of life and death. Christianity is not the only religion where this plays out: The Egyptian god, Osiris, famously dies and is reborn, and there are other examples from ancient religions.
Passover occurs now, too. It has less to do with the rhythms of the earth than it does the history of the Jewish people. Yet, the story of Passover features themes of death and destruction, and marks a rebirth of a people released from slavery. Many Hindus celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors, a celebration of good’s triumph over evil and a harbinger of spring. Its origins lie in a story where death also plays a prominent role.
Wesak is a Buddhist celebration of the birth of the Buddha and, to some, his Enlightenment and passing into Nirvana. Indigenous and Pagan religions have spring celebrations, as well. Neo-Pagans may celebrate Imbolc, Ostara or the Spring Equinox, and Beltane.
I encourage you to learn more about these holidays. Whether we celebrate with our interfaith neighbors or recognize them in our UU worship services, knowledge of multiple faith traditions helps us understand how we are alike and how we different. Our differences are not something to fear. Look around you: Spring brings us life in all varieties. That is yet another theme of the season: the beauty that diversity brings. Celebrate with me!