With its tiny world inside the world, and the eventual emergence of a new life, it's easy to see why the egg is a symbolic object in so many cultures. And why, as usual, both our religious and our secular traditions of Easter come from observances much older according to the online "free encyclopedia."
"The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare. Some believe that Ēostre was associated with eggs and hares, and the rebirth of the land in spring was symbolised by the egg. Ēostre is known from the writings of Bede Venerabilis, a seventh-century Benedictine monk. Bede describes the pagan worship of Ēostre among the Anglo-Saxons as having died out before he wrote about it. Bede's De temporum ratione attributes her name to the festival, but does not mention eggs at all.
The Western name for the festival of Easter derives from the Germanic word Eostre. It is only in Germanic languages that a derivation of Eostre marks the holiday. Most European languages use a term derived from the Hebrew pasch meaning Passover. In Spanish, for example, it is Pascua; in French, Pâques; in Dutch, Pasen; in Greek, Russian and the languages of most Eastern Orthodox countries: Pascha. In Middle English, the word was pasche, which is preserved in modern dialect words. Some languages use a term meaning Resurrection, such as Serbian Uskrs."
Obviously the celebration of Eostre has changed and the Easter egg along with it - from "written-wax" pysanky eggs to the incredible Fabergé eggs of the Russian czars to our modern virtual Easter eggs that are not even eggs and have no physical representation at all. In each step of this cultural evolution, the original connection with and celebration of the re-birth of the earth recedes further from consciousness. Yet, if one thing seems to have survived each step, it's the element of surprise. And the joy that comes from the unexpected. In its most modern incarnation, the Easter egg is the surprise.
Taking the themes of re-birth, surprise, and gratitude from the farmer's market and friends, these are my Easter eggs of spring so far:
- The thrill of Easter egg radishes is an obvious one. Goetz farm has had tiny sweet, red radishes for several weeks, but yesterday the first Easter egg radishes appeared (just in time!) from Valentine Farm - the one with the amazing dahlias later in the summer.
- Garden Works organic greens and sprouts has just started coming to the market again. Their several tubs of greens currently contain a salad mix, tiny baby arugula, sunflower sprouts and these pea shoots - the edible, sweet tender ends of the pea plants. Rob says you can eat pea tips raw, but I'm planning a lovely spring stir-fry. And four big handfuls of pea shoots.
- Nancy Biehn of Sweet Gem Confections (located on Packard inside Morgan and York) had been making lots of chocolate bunnies last weekend when she arrived at the market with a beautiful display of her beautiful chocolate truffles. She makes her own fresh fruit pastes for her seasonal chocolates. Try the pear and pink peppercorn.
- After interviewing Mary Wessel-Walker at this week's SELMA Café, I knew that she was going to be starting a weekly stall at the Farmer's Market with her Community Farm Kitchen CSA and Bakery. And indeed, with her friend playing the Hot Cross Buns tune on the recorder in a subliminal call to shoppers, Mary was selling granola, Pendle Hill brown bread, bran muffins and yes, the traditional Easter treat, sweet raisin-studded hot cross buns. Which I could not resist buying. I blame the song.
- And from further afield, cookies arrived in the mail this week as part of a "pay it forward" Facebook meme that my friend Cam is doing - making things for five friends if they'll make something for five of their friends. So now that I've gotten the sweet cookie pay-off for signing up, I have to decide what I'll be making for five of my friends - Margaret, Cam, Shayne, Jeff, and Jen!
- Finally, on a visit to Tantré Farm last week to pick up milk and see what's growing so far (garlic, strawberries and tens of thousands of tiny seedlings in the 90º hoophouse) Richard told me that my entreaties have been heard and they are planning to grow Christmas lima beans this year. Yes! I can hardly believe it. I've been crowing like a rooster ever since. Once again this year, I find more reasons to love Richard and Deb and the beautiful Tantré Farm madly.
Christmas and Easter and eggs and re-birth all mixed up together in a surprising salad. Spring is sprung.
Today's Easter Sunday is sunny and the temperature is moving toward sixty degrees - perfect gardening weather. Heading out to tidy my outdoor rooms and ready my microscopic fields for planting seems a fit time to think about the Wendell Berry book I am reading - Citizenship Papers. In cultivating an awareness of the work for the year ahead, Berry observes that it's worthwhile to ask:
"Where are we? What is this place in which we are preparing to do our work? What has happened here in geologic time? What has happened here in human time? What is the nature, what is the genius, of this place? What, if we weren't here, would nature be doing here? What will the nature of the place permit us to do here without exhausting either the place itself or the birthright of those who will come later? What, even, might nature help us to do here? Under what conditions, imposed both by the genius of the place and the genius of our arts, might our work here be healthful and beautiful?"