Column: Signs of ZiigwaanZiigwaan, the season of Mother Earth’s awakening and renewal, brings us noticeably longer days that, cloudy or clear, are filled with the beauty of daylight.
Ziigwaan, the season of Mother Earth’s awakening and renewal, brings us noticeably longer days that, cloudy or clear, are filled with the beauty of daylight.
This year’s unusually long-lasting wintery weather has delayed for just a bit some of the other gifts of spring that by late April we usually see and hear. The lingering snow certainly gives us an appreciation for coming of spring, and this year we look and listen a little more closely for the signs.
What signs of spring have I noticed?
The yards in our neighborhood still have snow a couple of feet deep, and banks that must be twice as high. Down the street several children dressed in brightly colored winter jackets and hats were helping their grandpa dig out after the last storm. I think this must be one of this year’s signs of Ziigwaan: children having fun working and playing in the April snow! Taking a break, they sat on the top of the highest snowbank looking like daffodils and jonquils blooming right out of the snow, smiling as I drove by.
Another sign: This morning I was awakened by a bird singing. My first thought was that I hadn’t heard this for a while; my second, “Welcome back!”
Not long ago I saw in the newspaper a photo of people who had walked up the West Duluth hillside (near the hairpin, where the road is closed because the June flood washed it away), to see a sleepy bear who had emerged from hibernation and was looking around for something to eat. “Springtime!” I thought, and put on a lighter jacket that day. Optimistically I decided to not wear boots, though I kept them in the car (two days later I was glad I did!).
And just last week some students told me that they had heard of another bear sighting, this one near Pecan and Central Entrance.
Here in Onigamiising, if the bears are beginning to make their appearance, spring must be here. Weather or not!
I always think it takes a certain amount of courage for hibernating animals to leave the warmth and comfort of their winter lair, but once they wake up they know, with the innate wisdom that as animals they are given by the Creator, that the time is right for getting up and out into the world (the Creator assists by providing interest, optimism, a spiritual sense of seeking
what is meant to be, and a healthy appetite, too!).
The bear in springtime may not remember or know just what is out there, outside the winter den, but he nevertheless gets to his feet, pokes his nose outside the doorway, and steps out into the woods.
As it is with Mother Earth and the bears, we humans experience seasonal changes, both during the year and during our lives. As the fall has passed to winter this past year, and now as winter passes to spring I have seen in my own family and friends the changes that life’s seasonal cycle brings: big changes and small; good times and challenges; health and illnesses. People change jobs, have surgery, decide to paint the kitchen. A young couple finds that they are expecting their first baby; several young LeGarde cousins who will graduate from high school in June look forward to the next season of their young lives.
To me, the surest sign of spring is that, like the bear, we awake to an awareness and appreciation of the world around us. Walking and breathing in the refreshed air of this season, we live our prayer of thanks and hope that the Creator will continue to gift all of us as he has the bear: with that interest, optimism, spiritual sense of seeking what is meant to be, and healthy appetite (very important, I think!) as we walk along the seasons of our life’s path.
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.