One of the oldest myths about the celebration of Spring comes from the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia, somewhere between 2000 and 4000 BC. Cuneiform tablets from this ancient civilization tell the story of “The Descent of Inanna,” a precursor to the tale of Persephone. Religious scholars cite Inanna’s tale as the start of the modern-day Easter celebration.
When her lover Damuzi is killed, the grief stricken Inanna follows him through seven gates to the underworld. There, she is killed and hung on the wall as a warning to other humans not to enter the underworld. Deeply saddened by her death, the Upworld halts. The sun hides her face and the rains won’t abate. Crops die. Animals are no longer able to mate and reproduce.
A brave god named Enki carries water and a tiny plant to the underworld to resurrect Damuzi and Inanna. He places a small leaf under their tongues and a drop of water on their foreheads, bringing them back to life. Angry that their punishment was thwarted, the underworld gods impose a strict rule that the two lovers may remain in the Upworld for only half of the year, thus creating our spring and summer. Then they are forced to return to the underworld for the rest of the year, creating our fall and winter.
I took a walk in the woods today. Late afternoon sun streamed through the tree branches, casting the grass beneath a technicolor green. The air smelled of petrichor, lingering molecules of raindrops on the budding trees. Purple vinca winked from the loamy ground where I sat, running my fingers through an especially soft patch of moss, absorbing the dichotomous warmth of the sun and the cool shade of the glen.
Hours later, I went to wash up for dinner and noticed a tiny sliver of verdant moss under my thumbnail, reminding me of Enki’s life-saving plant, and how nature has always been a healing teacher for me.
The season is breathing life back into me, drawing me from the slumber and isolation of winter. Everyone has heard of Hump Day, but my family also celebrates Lump Day. Lump Day occurs on Sundays, but only in the winter. We build a fire early and lie like torpid lumps all day, puzzling, reading, watching movies, snuggling with the pets, getting up for bathroom breaks or to graze straight out of the refrigerator. I might take a long bath or stretch my legs up the wall, but nothing productive happens on Lump Day. Please don’t ask us to schedule anything on a Sunday in winter; David and I are very protective of Lump Day. We hole up and hibernate, taking in nature only through a thick, protective pane of glass.
But as the days and seasons shift, so do our habits. And like the buds on the dogwood, we’ve been freed from our winter cocoon. Life feels fresh and light and hopeful again, my energy returning with every extra minute of sunlight. I long to be outside, stepping more into myself every time I step outside the door. In this season of renewal and replenishment, I find myself shedding the lethargy and seclusion like a heavy winter coat. We’ve been zooming our energy in all winter, circling the familial wagons and resisting any and all forms of extroversion. As the warm yellow light and the soft spring rains turn the hills ever more green, my energy zooms out toward larger connections in the world.
Hello, spring. Happy to see your face.