Springtime – a matter of culture - Or: A new broom sweeps clean
By Heidi Trautmann
What has springtime to do with culture you may ask but there is more to it than you think. It is not only the awakening of nature after months of dryness; it is the idea of continuity, of rebirth and resurrection in our lives and in our culture. Let’s go out in front of our doors and feel the fresh breeze; with it comes the smell of jasmine and if you are closer to the mountains the smell of the bright yellow broom. At the moment there is also a taste of fresh hope and excitement that encircles our days with the elections in the South of Cyprus going on, it looks like a turning point, what will it bring to Cyprus?
Does it not feel good to smell this freshness of young nature, does it not please the eyes to bathe them in this offer of colours, up and down the hills, across the wide fields. You can virtually see nature ‘spring’ up and unfold. Springtime officially starts on March 21 but in Cyprus we are lucky to have it begin with the first rains, often flooding gardens and roads, but simultaneously flushing away the dirt so many environmental sinners have left in the mountain areas or at the end of deserted fields and roads; the wild growth of weed and wild flowers covers most of it up for a while.
To welcome spring many rituals are known in different parts of the world, rituals connected to old nature religions, rituals to chase winter away by burning the figure of an old man made of straw, rituals to pray to goddesses and gods for fertility of fields and wives, often connected with a sacrifice of either animal or human form. The fatter the better.
Spring, the time to open all doors and sweep out the rooms, cupboards and souls of the dark shadows of winter, during many days of spring cleaning so dreaded by men doubting if they are meant to be cleaned out as well when everything is turned upside down. After the big clean-up my grandmother used to decorate the finally sparkling house with fresh sprigs of birch tree or hazel nut and any kind of spring blossoms we brought home.
Spring, meaning rebirth after many months of standstill, of introspection, of dark hours; nature coming to live again, but also in a figurative meaning rebirth, rebirth of a nation after a revolution, like the Prague Spring in the 1960s. Spring as a synonym for renewal, cleaning up, getting rid of old unloved superfluous objects – I just wonder if the divorce rate is higher in spring – but also for feeling powerful, beautiful and ready for fresh love affairs or new jobs, getting the feeling of being invincible, going for climbing high mountains and adventures.
Spring means inspiration in a creative way for poets and musicians, spring is the most productive time for artists with the daylight increasing and creating a translucent atmosphere, a clear-sightedness intensifying the colours of renewal; new warmth making us take off our coat to let the air touch the body. Spring, an alluring young woman, a young girl like a bud. Spring is female and here we come back again to fertility, fertility of the soil, the womb of our earth, earth being female, carried by Atlas on his shoulders. Here we have the wonderful Spring figure painted by Botticelli, we have the most beautiful music with Primavera in the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, the most touching poems by renowned poets, what more proof do we need to be convinced of the power of spring.
The first signs of spring in Cyprus are usually the almond trees, in early February, like a bride decorating herself to meet her man. The bitter almonds are first there with a pink touch, up and down the foothills of the Kyrenia mountains where we live. The colour appearing next are waves of yellow with the broom bushes covering the hills and with it goes the wonderful smell which makes people hold their nose up sniffing. The winter rains have soaked the bone dry soil and everywhere the yellow flowers of clover - correctly buttercups - cover the sides of the roads or take possession of our flower beds. At the same time the acacia, known as mimosa, are ready to explode and make a terrific contrast to the lavender in my garden. Mimosa along the roads from Lapta leading to Kyrenia, it always gives me a feeling of unreality seen against the dark blue of the Mediterranean sky or even the heavy purple rain clouds racing over the island. Coming over the pass from Kyrenia towards Nicosia the endless plains of the Mesaoria spread in front of my eyes covered in fresh green wheat fields and yellow mustard plants which will give you the final proof that spring activities are in full process.
Numberless trekking trails that we have been following in springtime in the foothills of the island; leisurely wandering through seas of anemones in white, blue and pink, wild asphodels, fragile cyclamen, crown daisies; later in March and April we walk along hills full of white and pink cist roses which always remind me of unpressed blouses. Do you know the weird story of the mandrake with its humanlike root?
Only occasionally you will encounter people exercising themselves or their dogs except when there are groups of tourists being led through the mountains on the search for orchids and wild flowers, or with the well-known Orchid Charity Walk that has been announced in the papers calling for hundreds of people willing to join in and walk over the mountains whatever the weather forecast has been telling us.
Whatever has roots on this island will start blossoming in spring, small weeds, meadow flowers, wild gladiolas and tulips, thistles and grasses, wild fennel with its one meter high stems, will one after the other show their beauty to us and to insects encouraging them to distribute their seed to the lover next door before the summer heat sets in. What an inspiring attitude, although I keep wondering why – surrounded by all these activities - a sweet tiredness takes hold of me.