How to catch an acute dose of spring fever – open the bedroom window at 4 AM; when the chill, citrus blossom-drenched air surges into the room, inhale deeply until intoxicated.
Winter is my favorite season here – the magical emergence of new seasonal growth that we experience from December, in other parts of the world is most commonly associated with spring. So if winter here is like spring, then the real spring is a riot! By mid-March, the crazy blooming and blossoming of flowers, undergrowth, and trees is simply out of control.
I recently read about spring as it was experienced here about a century ago, in the first volume of Gustav Dalman’s “Work and Culture in Palestine”, written in German in the 1920s, and recently translated into English. It is an extraordinary work that documents traditional life in this place as it was practiced more or less since antiquity, just before European and global intervention led to its almost total demise.
The first volume (of 8 in all), focuses on the seasons, and it was very exciting to consider Dalman’s account of spring with all its commotion in the background. He explains that the wild growth in spring, which at this point is almost waist-high (and which I tended to look at only for its culinary qualities) represented a celebration of fodder for the animals of farmers and herders. From a fellaheen saying that he quotes (and I paraphrase), the shepherd before spring needs to be smart, but when spring arrives, he can sit back and relax. Fattened up on the bounty of fresh greens, the cows, goats and sheep give rich and abundant milk – a true expression of the fat of the land.
Dalman speaks of the sap rising in the trees during this season – the expression is familiar, of course, and in my more “interconnected” moments, I’ve visualized trees surging with life energy, but I never understood it in such a visceral way. These days, I feel like I am tapping into these same energies of growth and renewal for my new academic pursuits. To my great surprise and delight, a proposal I submitted to the prestigious Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery was accepted, so I will be talking about the wonderful wheat mill in Nazareth, El Babour, in England this July.
In the meantime, if spring is all around, or just around the corner, I hope you enjoy the rising sap as well!