Lessons from the Spring Equinox

What nature can teach us about survival and resilience.

It's a time of tremendous global uncertainty, but like always, spring has come.

Thursday, March 19 marked the earliest vernal equinox in 124 years, making today the first day of spring.

The dawn of each spring tends to inspire humans to make changes and to invite renewal and rebirth in their lives. In that spirit, it's time to sow seeds that will grow as the weather grows warmer, to turn inwards and clean the dust out of the corners and take the trash out, to open yourself to change.

Spring is a time where the earth performs a miracle, one we tend to take for granted: It grows back after having died completely. Now it's time for us to learn from the crocuses, from the buds on the trees, from the gentle warmth of the sunlight as it pours through our windows. We're part of nature, so we have the ability to grow, too, no matter how long the winter lasts.

There are simple things you can do to practice inviting spring in and to awaken your body to the knowledge that it's here. You might prioritize sitting in the sunlight—perch yourself out on your fire escape or balcony, or even in a ray of sunlight on the edge of your bed—and let the vitamins seep into your face, soothing the deep shadows winter left. You might plant some seeds or scrape the dead leaves off a chair in your backyard, plant yourself there, and let the poems grow out of your fingertips.

Sometimes, growth can look like destruction, but nature has always practiced that rule: "For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone," says Cynthia Occelli. "The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."

You might begin a garden (who knows, it could come in handy). Plant tomatoes, place herbs on your windows, and consider how growing your own food could become part of your daily rituals. Even the act of weeding can become a way of cleansing your own soul and mind of crowded darknesses, if you approach it with the right mindset.

You might go into the woods, or venture out into a nearby park. Go alone, or with a friend (while keeping six feet apart). You might practice a meditation together—just try it even though it'll feel strange—but focus on the feeling of the earth underneath your feet. Focus on the gentle breeze and the sounds around you. Imagine the sunlight working its way through your head all the way through your body. Imagine yourself being surrounded in an orb of golden light. (For a more detailed explanation of this practice, check out this Earth Meditation ritual).

The vernal equinox is a time of balance, a time when the day and night are equal lengths and the sun and moon are split into balanced halves. It's a time to honor both the darkness and the light as they exist in perfect harmony. In ancient times, spring was associated with the goddess Ostara, who represents fertility, rebirth, and youthful intuition.

There are many magical rituals you can use to honor Ostara, or you can invent your own. Either way, now is the time to look to forces larger than ourselves, to the lessons that the Earth has been trying to teach us, to the things our bodies know innately. What's out there, beyond the walls of the life you built for yourself? We're all about to find out. Of course, spring has been teaching us for all of time.


12 Nature Documentaries to Celebrate Earth Day (Without Going Outside)

April 22nd is Earth Day, which means it's time appreciate the beauty of nature (from the safety of your home)


It's Earth Day!

That special time of year when we take some time to appreciate Mother Earth in all her splendor, and it would be so nice to get out into the sunlight and enjoy some nature. But it's a trap! Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, your best bet of not catching/spreading the coronavirus is to stay indoors. So whether you're fully quarantined or just practicing social distancing, these nature documentaries can remind you of the outside world without risking any contact with other people.

Dancing With the Birds

Is there anything that defines the beauty of nature more than birdsong? The sound of twittering and chirping filling the trees can make even an urban landscape feel connected with nature. But singing is just one of the ways that birds have of seducing each other as the weather changes. The birds-of-paradise that live in New Guinea and parts of Australia prefer a different kind of performance. With brilliant jumping, twisting displays of iridescent plumage, they dance for the future of the species. And for the future of your species, you will stay inside and watch them do it. Dancing With the Birds is also the only documentary on this list that your cat is likely to enjoy as much as you will.

Moving Art

Oh wait, forgot about flowers. Flowers are the defining beauty of springtime, and in "Flowers" episode of Moving Art you can watch every variety and color of flower grow, bloom, follow the sun, and sway in the wind—almost like you were actually outside! The soothing imagery and wordless orchestral soundtrack make for great background viewing while you count out squares of toilet paper to make sure your roommate isn't exceeding their ration.

Planet Earth

If you haven't seen Planet Earth, you've been missing out. There's nothing outside your door that could compete with this collection of some of the most spectacular sights in the natural world, all narrated by the incomparable baritone of David Attenborough (because we aren't heathens, and Sigourney Weaver can't say "water.") Until recently it was streaming on Netflix, but now you have to pay for it, so...

Our Planet

Our Planet is Netflix's answer to Planet Earth, complete with spectacular sights and David Attenborough's narration. It's almost as amazing as the BBC classic, and it won't cost you anything but a Netflix subscription


In the Hopi language, koyaanisqatsi means life out of balance, so you can probably guess that the entire film is just 86 minutes of nature imagery juxtaposed with surreal scenes of urban life and destructive industry set to a score by Philip Glass—duh. The only word spoken in the entire film is the title, repeatedly chanted in a voice that sounds like it's summoning dark spirits to bring on the end times. If quarantine has you in a particularly apocalyptic mood and really hating human civilization, then Koyaanisqatsi is the perfect way to celebrate our long-suffering planet.

Grizzly Man

The story of Timothy Treadwell is a cautionary tale on the dangers of underestimating a deadly threat—and of going outside. For 13 summers Treadwell camped in the wilds of Alaska and convinced himself that he could hang out and pal around with giant Kodiak bears without issue. Without giving away Grizzly Man's tragic twist ending (he's eaten by bears), you can count on this documentary to remind you of the majesty and wonder of nature while also making you thankful that you live indoors.

Blue Planet

Imagine living in the dark depths of the ocean where strange creatures with glowing appendages subsist off thermal vents and nutrients that descend from the sunlit waters above, and they never have to wash their hands. Blue Planet is a documentary series that explores every aspect of life in and around the seas. Episode two, "The Deep" is particularly beautiful and eerie, and invites you to imagine the isolation of an angler fish that may go its entire life without seeing another angler fish.

Chasing Coral

Chasing Coral would normally be a pretty depressing documentary. It follows a team of researchers documenting the disappearance of the world's vital coral reefs as a result of human industry. But if there is a silver lining to the current pandemic, it's that the reduction of human activity is mitigating the pollution and damage that we usually unleash upon the Earth's fragile ecosystems. If dolphins have started swimming in the suddenly pristine canals of Venice, then maybe some of the world's endangered coral will also see some benefit from this break humanity is taking.


Remember international travel? People used to get on planes and fly all over the world to see exotic locales and experience natural wonders unlike anything they could see at home. Well forget about all that, because it's gone. The closest thing in our new reality is sitting really close to your TV while Madagascar (the documentary, not the cartoon) plays. And maybe you can smear some banana on the screen to pretend you're feeding the lemurs.

The Universe

It might seem strange to think of distant space as a part of "nature," but just as the moon pulls at the oceans, when we examine the workings of the universe we discover the interconnectedness of all things and gain perspective on the scale of human struggle. Also, imagine if you were out in space right now—no way you would get infected! The Universe is an ideal escape from the world.

Encounters at the End of the World

If it seems like the COVID-19 virus has turned the world into a barren waste, Encounters at the End of the World is a good reminder that there is an entire continent that remains completely unaffected—largely because it was already a barren waste. This exploration of the inhabitants and landscapes of Antarctica is the work of Werner Herzog, whose moody philosophical musings are the perfect narration for the end of the world.

Ghosts of the Mountains

Snow leopards are rarely seen by human eyes. They live in remote mountain climates and maintain solitary existences cut off even from other snow leopards. In other words, they are masters of social distancing. Watch Ghosts of the Mountains and be like the snow leopards.