This week was the equinox. I love this time of change* with all the lovely flowers springing up, the rabbits running about, the little lambs, the birds nesting. It’s absolutely delightful. It’s also a bit bittersweet as an expat Canadian. I miss the patchy leftover snow, the sound of March with water running constantly everywhere from the melting snow, the smell of maple sap boiling, the taste of “la tire d’érable” sticky and sweet rolled on a twig, the feel of the sun on my bare arms and of the gritty chunks of old icy snow in my hands and of swirly slushy snow around my boots. I also miss Canada around the other equinox, when the Ottawa Valley explodes into colour as the trees lose their chlorophyll but keep their leaves for a few glorious weeks, when the produce is abundant and delicious and we just gorge on the last of the peaches and the first of the apples and all the corn and cranberries we can cope with.
One of my dearest friends has her birthday today. She’s a really cool human and one of the cleverest and bravest people I know, and if she’s reading this she’s probably either laughing in that adorable way she does when people compliment her or protesting that she’s not all that**. I think about her a lot these days, because she’s an expat too, from a beautiful land, also full of the amazing colours of nature and spectacular tasty local desserts and fruits – though less snow than mine. She celebrated the new year – starting as Europe did for many centuries, with the start of spring*** exactly to the second, because her people have a bit of a knack for astronomy it turns out. When I sat down to wish her a happy new year though, the words died on my fingertips. How could I say that, make that wish, when everything seems to be so bleak. It felt very much like what we call “Wishful Thinking” as dripping with irony as when “hope” was left in the bottom of Pandora’s box in the Greek myth.
In a few days we’ll be observing “Tolkien Reading Day” on March the 25th – in Christian lore the date both of the conception and (34 years later) of the crucifixion of Jesus – in Tolkien lore, the day the One Ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated. The Professor coined the term eucatastrophe – the antithesis of a catastrophe, the moment where, with everything seeming bleak and hopeless, all is made well, beyond hope. Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and the captains of the West, continue their fight, not because they truly believe they can win, but simply because they can’t think of any other course that wouldn’t compromise their most deeply held beliefs. They are completely awed when they succeed. The other thing of course, that happens on March the 25th, in Tolkien’s work, is the birth of a little girl, two years after the fall of Sauron. It is a smaller, cuter, eucatastrophe… but a eucatastrophe all the same, and her friends and family stood in awe there too.
Perhaps then, feasts are our way to express our uncompromising awe and wonder at the world around us. Belief beyond hope in some good, some deeply buried potential eucatastrophe. Because we know that in spite of their unlikeliness, there are in fact, fresh wonders every morning. Here’s to the growing of the light, the rising of the sun, and to women, life, freedom.
*But not the time change…
** she is.
*** altogether a more sensible start point.