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Time for a spring clean
2010.04.06 / Sophia Butler
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Spring is officially here; daffodils are blooming in their golden shades and tiny lambs are to be seen frolicking in the fields. This year they are even more irresistible than ever as many farmers have invested in little plastic jackets which defend against lashings of wind and rain which have been frequent in patches of freak weather in Scotland. The sight of tiny fluffy white balls in their coats, cavorting in the grass, but never too far from Mother Sheep is heart-warming. Despite flash floods and snows, which have made many of us double-check, the vernal equinox occurred on the 21st March and introduced the new season with a welcome day of the same length as a night.

Once again, nature resurrects itself, releasing all the pent up energy of hibernation. It is time for Eastern thinking; each season creates an energy which dictates how we ought to cook, live and harmonize with it. When living in the country, a long and dark winter can make us miss the proximity of others and the hum of city life. However, one sunny day makes it all worthwhile. My teacher at the nutritional school I attended in Glasgow, told us that was only aware it was spring when she looked down at her plate and saw a reflection of the colours outside her window. Vegetables should start to take over your plates from now and for the length of summer – particularly salads, sprouts and raw food, as we migrate away from longer cooked stews and imbibe that upward, renewing energy.
Snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses and tulips are the first flowers of spring and they are characterized by this powerful rising energy. Symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings; the daffodil is said to be the flower of abundance, so go and feast your senses on a walk in some green where they spread their golden light! Don’t forget that 10-15 minutes of sunshine is enough to help our bodies make vitamin D and to make a substantial difference to how we feel. Make sure you invest in enough outside time to banish the wintry blues.
The wind picks up and the air is clear as the earth is swept by a refreshing, renewing force. I come out of the house and feel like jumping for joy on my trampoline, the dogs join me, (in the absence of the legendary goats who were always trying to reach the succulent higher branches of the apple tree!). The thrill of the upward force, blowing my hair and shaking my brain around in my head is exhilarating; a perfect opportunity to question the negative thought patterns we allow our minds to spoon-feed us. Things are moving and it is a great time for a detox and a shake-up of the lymph system. Over the cold months we often become more sluggish and our body is quicker to store fats in our reserves. Now is a good time to kick start the metabolism with exercise and diet. Those of us who are Church goers were participating in the abstinence of Lent; however, whatever your religious persuasion, a customized form of Lent is a good idea for us all health-wise. If we abstain from one or more of our indulgences for at least one month, the body has a real chance to flush out toxins and regenerate itself before we start again! The body can only do one thing at a time: it is either protecting or repairing but we must give it the chance!
Suddenly there is a commotion at the gate and Hamish emerges through a cacophony of barking, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with a cargo of manure, torturous looking gadgets, shovels, spades and pitch forks. There is no escape I think to myself, contemplating how much lonelier life would seem here without the welcome intrusions of our old friend. It is amazing that in a time when we are diseased by unnatural social propriety, Hamish just barges in and never asks whether or not it is convenient! I have stopped jumping as Hamish approaches with his precious brown sack full of seeds; “I’m sure you have already cleaned the house and fasted for 40days”, we both laugh out loud, “Now it is time to listen to the awakening earth”.
I don’t even have time to run inside and get my gardening gloves which Ross bought me before there is a shovel in my hand and a beautiful polka-dotted seed – “You need to get the mantra going” Hamish tells me, as if I would know what that is… “You know – sow with the flow”. Forget cuddly Easter bunnies, forego chocolate eggs and cake. Under Hamish’s guidance we dig, we prepare the seed beds by raking the ground and we strim the grass before mowing it (a job from which I am exempt, having nearly ended up in the field after trying to use Ross’s new mower and strimming the heads off our solar lamps last time!). The shrubs are mercilessly pruned, any dead matter is cut back, to reveal plump buds on each stem, not forgetting to nourish the soil (not the plants) with pungent manure, which the dogs love to gulp down – straight! Then, the planting of the new life, which sits patiently in the seeds, just waiting to spring into action with the addition of soil and water – amazing! Once all the urgent tasks are completed, there is time for a hot-cross bun after all. Rolling my cigarette and burning my mouth on earl-grey tea, I feel blissful, having participated in a dance with Gaia, the mythological earth goddess. With just a little effort, I have ensured that I will be privy to a miracle and the soil will offer nutrient-rich and tasty gifts.
“I would have liked to have been born in a summer garden”, I said to Hamish, smiling as I remember the best reply to the question “How old are you?” I have ever heard. My Mama did not feel to answer traditionally, (as any woman might), so she replied “I was born on a warm summer afternoon, it was a Wednesday; the birds were singing as the wind ruffled the leaves on the trees”. The reply left the person too stunned to speak! I ask Hamish when he was born, whilst happily munching. “It was the year of the Dragon”, “That sounds about right!” I exclaim, half choking on the last puff of my cigarette! I know that the equinox is recognised as the start of a new astrological cycle, but I have not been drawn to astrology more than looking up into the evening sky. Hamish began to speak, I could tell it was going to be a lesson by his tone – “According to legend, the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals of the earth to him before he departed the world. Only 12 made the journey successfully and ingratitude, Buddha rewarded them by naming a year after them in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. The system is extremely practical. The Dragon is depicted as a mythical adversary in Western legends, but the Orientals see him as the epitome of style and wisdom. As for you my dear, you were born in the year of the sheep I believe – before you despair, what the Westerner sees as docile and even stupid, the Eastern mind views as sensitive and artistic.” This is good news I think to myself, casting my mind back to the conversation I had with a farmer’s wife the other day whilst sharing my enthusiasm for the lambs in their red jackets. She said it really only makes the slightest bit of difference because sheep are born to die, no matter what precautions you take and even those which are rejected and taken into the barn to be hand-reared have a 50% survival rate. I’m definitely sticking with the Eastern view on this one!
“So Mr. Astrologer, what kind of year does 2010 bode to be?” I inquire. I can tell that Hamish likes this subject – “It is the year of the Tiger; a dramatic year for the world, natural disasters will not be uncommon and the milieu will be volatile – financially it will be a roller coaster.” He becomes very quiet. “Have you any petrol in the red rocket?” I am suddenly asked – “Um, yes, where are we going?” I gulp, what does the crazy, old goat want now I wonder. It is apparently time to visit the Cradle of Christianity in Scotland. We departed on a pilgrimage of sorts, with Hamish as guide to Whithorn which is the nearest town to St Ninian’s Cave.
The cave is holy site for pilgrimages to celebrate Scotland’s first saint, who introduced Christianity to the land. The holy man named Nynia used this quiet and secluded spot as a place for solitude and retreat. He built the first Christian church in Scotland in 397 AD, of whitewashed stone, so it could be easily seen. The White House led to the name Whithorn. When I look at Hamish walking in his tattered sandals and overgrown beard towards the tiny cave, accompanied by the roar of rolling waves and angry sky; I feel humbled and moved. Far from the religious implications, the natural beauty of the place and its serenity speak a universal language. As we walk back from the beach, Hamish looks at peace with his beliefs; having completed his duties as Christian as thousands have before him.
Back home I am rounding up the spiritual harvest of my 40 day fast – I did it! There is an old Chinese proverb: when we are born we are assigned a pile of food. When we consume it, we die. Why hurry to the grave then, I ask ? This is a good way to think about your health and the consequences of mindless eating; the concept of mind, body and spirit is not just a conspiracy of enlightened life coaches and therapists. A healthy mind and body result in clearer emotional states to lead you down the right path. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves here – we have to make sacrifices – however, I have got my diet on track. As for the rest – prepare for preaching: there is no point in being gorgeous / divine if your life is a mess. End a co-dependent relationship, quit a dead-end job, and ditch any toxic friends! Smile a lot and give compliments out whenever you have the impulse, remember it comes back three times as powerfully according to karmic law. Get your dream job – people who love what they do are not looking for another person to fulfil them. Search for your dream man if you have not already found him. Adopt the mantra – feel the fear and do it anyway! I leave you to contemplate the wise words of Tsem Tulku Rinpoche : ”We keep looking outside for the light when we should now become the light”.

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