Erica Wheeler: inspiring connections between people and place

April 2010/Collective Rites of Spring

April 2010Collective Rites of Spring
It's happening, and people are noticing.

When spring arrives, all around the world even the weariest take note. I'm remembering last year when I went to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.  What struck me even more than the showy pink blooms was the people who had come to see them.  

I saw people of all ages, nationalities and political persuasions, walking slowly, almost meditatively, heads tilted up, mesmerized by the blossoms. It looked like a pilgrimage. Every year over 700,000 people visit DC for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, according to the event's official website.

Listening to the Land
Walking among the blossom revelers I thought, "This is what it's like to live in a culture that takes time to collectively stop and honor nature."

Can you imagine what it would be like if every time some awesome event was occurring in the natural world, we all got the day off to witness it? "Sorry, spring peepers just started singing, we're closed today." Or "Cherry blossom peak week, we'll be out of the office."  Until then, let's celebrate where and when we can.

My Story
While "wild nature" and "cultivated nature" are very different experiences, watching people in public gardens restores my faith in our innate ability to connect with the natural world.  

A few years ago I was a keynote speaker at the American Horticultural Society Youth and Garden Symposium. While preparing for my talk, I thought about how for many, many people, gardens are THE way to connect with nature. They are the safest, easiest and most accessible way to experience the sense of wonder nature can provide, and are often not far from home.

There's something about the pageantry of a public garden that I love. People promenade with their friends and family. At some point they start to tiptoe and speak in hushed tones. They coo and aah when they see a stunning flower or butterfly. Whether they're city kids or grandmothers in wheelchairs, their eyes brighten with awe and wonder. I also like to take in the love and care that has gone into the planning and tending of the gardens.

Even if you have your own garden, getting out to catch spring in a collective setting has a whole other appeal.

Try This:
Visit a Public Garden Here's a great resource for finding a botanical garden in your area:

Attend an Earth Day Event I couldn't find a site listing everything going on, but I'm sure if you enter your town and "Earth Day 2010," you'll find an event nearby. This site has some good background about Earth Day:

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, DC  Japan's original, 1912 gift 3,020 trees was expanded by 3,800 trees in 1965. It's a beautiful spectacle.

Your Story
Are there any public gardens in your area you love to visit? Are there memories you have of bringing people with you and seeing their "sense of wonder" come alive?

Are there any collective rites of spring in your area? Are there any celebrations just about something blooming in your area?

I'd love to hear about any collective rites of spring you know about or participate in! (Next month I'll be writing about birds and bird migration)

Post a comment below!

updated: 7 years ago