Emily Dickinson

Spring is a time for expectation. From the darkest December day to the vernal equinox in March, two precious daylight hours creep silently over puddled fields, gently illuminating not what is there but what will be. The snowdrop, crocus and tulip break out with life force, candy blossoms form on the bare antlers of cherry trees and a westward chorus calls migrating birds in tuneful song. Moment by moment spring begins. The potential for life locked deep in earth's crust waits to expand. In this spring moment all living things are bound by pale sunlight.

When light reaches out in an expanding pool, it anticipates our hopefulness (and fears) and we defer to human nature'. Atavism becomes us during the rites of spring. Shared customs with their roots in agriculture celebrate growth, renewal and the cycle of life. Energy and a longing for light is the source, with weird and wonderful rituals born from the hope that life will continue.

During Holi, the festival of love, Indian Hindis smother each other in bright powders and spray strangers with water guns filled with coloured water. In the Celtic festival Beltane, the symbolic use of fire is said to mimic the sun, making light for animals and crops. The people of Annapolis on Chesapeake Bay burn their socks. Ancient Chinese custom maintains that balancing eggs on the first day of spring brings daylight and good luck. Transgressing latitude, time and distinct cultures, the Easter bunny is the universal symbol of fertility; coloured eggs represent the sunlight. Christians celebrate the resurrection, but hang on to the Easter egg, a gift from Ostara the pagan goddess for spring.

Dying and rising Gods, blazing fires and candy coloured, balancing eggs all symbolise light winning over darkness. These rituals are made for hope and rebirth. EE Cummings's poem Spring is Like a Perhaps Hand' describes spring's delicate touch which carefully comes out of Nowhere.

The gradual emergence of life softly mutters and for once we listen. Light breathes in every living thing, spring opens and instinct unites us all. The syntax of life is light and so we begin again.

Photography . Nick Seaton

Words . Kate O'Brien

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