It's long been understood that January brings snow and March brings winds. But what of our early spring friend, April? What does April bring?
Why, April showers bring May flowers, of course! But what of the flora associated with April? Is it neglected in favor of more colorful flowers promised to bloom in May?
Not according to ancient Eastern traditions. Within these teachings, each month has at least one flower aligned with energies that boast spiritual and mystical meanings. Some flowers have powerful historical associations with birth and death, and in April, we look at one of the latter -- a bud most associated with the transition to the next life.
Known as the "Festival of the Dead," Ch'ing Ming is an Oriental festival that falls on April 5. The translation of this celebration's name literally means "pure and bright," and so it is on this day that those in the East sweep and clean the burial tombs of their ancestors. In the northern plains of China, it's said to be easy to spot the tombs of the ancestors, as they are the only places where trees are left unused for timber.
The flora most associated with Ch'ing Ming is the willow tree (and its buds), of which women and children wrap small pieces into their hair. As they're traditionally thought to guard against malevolent spirits and bring good luck, entire willow branches are placed beside tombs of the dead. Long considered an auspicious tree, the willow is also believed in many ancient Eastern cultures to posses the ability to attract rain, as well as fortune. In fact, the willow tree symbolizes many different things among various cultures: People throughout the ages have associated willows with protection, fertility, enlightenment, beauty and romantic love. Due to its resilience, the willow is also aligned with strength, endurance and, of course, immortality.
So, if you'd like to honor an ancestor with eternal respect and honor, lay a willow branch on their grave during this month that promises showers won't be far behind.
"In your Easter bonnet / With all the frills upon it / You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade." But what about the headache you'll get from wearing that big ol' bonnet all day long?!
There's a Feng Shui cure called "Beating the Heavenly Drum" that's believed to energize the brain stem; it's also said to enhance one's hearing while also helping to clear thinking and improve memory. Not only that, but it stimulates the kidneys as well, which will do more for your sex drive than even the jauntiest, sauciest Easter cap around!
Begin by rubbing the palms of your hands together until they're hot, then gently place them over your ears. Slowly press a little more firmly as you create a sort of suction. Allow your fingers, pointing together, to rest on the back of your head and neck, with your index fingers at the base of your skull as your thumbs rest on the side of your neck. Now, place your index fingers atop your middle fingers and let them flick off quickly, as if they're strumming the base of your skull; when you do this, you'll hear a "drumbeat" resounding inside your head. Alternate to the left and then the right, flicking your index fingers in rapid succession while still tuning into your internal drumming sound. Be sure to keep your palms pressed to your ears while flicking both index fingers against the base of the skull either nine or 27 times.
Never mind the hat hair! This little exercise will give your whole body a good "heads up" in only a minute or two. And that's worth anyone writing a sonnet about your Easter bonnet, isn't it?
Two words: spring break! And one more: hangover!
If, like so many members of the "Jersey Shore" crowd, you've become so drunk that the room is spinning, lay down on a bed and place one foot on the floor; this will help stop the spins and let you regain a sense of balance. And if you need to sober up a bit more quickly, honey can help. (Just make sure you're neither diabetic nor allergic.) Honey contains fructose, which promotes the chemical breakdown of alcohol, so first take a dose of two teaspoons, then follow that with one teaspoon every half-hour for another two hours.
You can also try acupressure to sober yourself up by simply massaging the tip of your nose for a few minutes. Beware, however, that this has been known to cause vomiting, so keep others several feet away should you try this! And if you really need to dry out badly, one cup of ginger tea will settle the stomach; also try placing a lemon wedge under each armpit for at least 20 minutes to take care of the dry mouth, headache and other unpleasant symptoms.
Vitamin B and tomato juice can serve to replenish you, as well as potassium, calcium and lost sodium. Any and all of the vitamin B complex can offer cellular oxidation while aiding with both carbo metabolizing and dilating blood vessels.
And of course, my old Irish grandda swore by a morning-after breakfast of toasted bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon!
What exactly does "April Fool's" mean, anyway? Some say that a likely explanation comes from our French friends.
Before the year 1564, when the New Year actually started on March 25, a celebration called "Twelfth Night" fell on the first day of April. This was a festive occasion filled with feasting and gift-giving. In the years soon after the calendar changed, mock gifts were given to those who were confused or had forgotten about the new calendar altogether. Therefore in France, even to this day, April Fool's is called "Poissin d'Avril" or "April Fish" -- meaning, one that is easily hooked!
Speaking of the French and fish easily hooked in springtime:
Makes 6 Servings
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of fish rub or Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup of veal stock
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Virgin olive oil (for frying)
Lemon wedges and fresh parsley sprigs for garnish
6 6-8 oz. speckled trout fillets
1. Blend the flour and Creole seasonings, as well as the salt, in a large mixing bowl. Rinse the fish fillets and lay them on a paper towel to dry. Dredge the fish in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. As it begins to bubble, add the remaining flour and stir constantly, creating a medium brown roux.
3. Pour the veal stock into another sauce pan and place over medium to high heat. Gently whisk the roux into this stock until fully dissolved. Add the Worcestershire sauce, fresh lemon juice and vinegar, then simmer for approximately four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat entirely and keep the sauce slightly warm.
4. Add three tablespoons of butter to a saute pan, then add about an inch of olive oil. Saute the trout for about two minutes on each side until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
No fooling and nothing fishy here. This recipe is mouth-wateringly good!
Since creation practices in Feng Shui are said to enhance your chances of success when you use your intentions, I like to think I'm quite cognizant of what makes every trip a huge success. But of course, since this is Feng Shui we're talking about, you also need to be as equally cognizant of the direction you'll be traveling, knowing full well that all roads lead to success!
If you'll be traveling north, for example, ring a metal bell three times in that direction before setting out. And if you have a singing bowl, strike it three times, as this will prove most auspicious for your travels! According to Feng Shui, the sound of the metal beckons -- and actually creates -- the Chi (life essence) of the metal element itself, which in turn will enhance the element of the north, which is water.
Feng Shui dictates that enhancing the elements creates positive energy you can tote along down the road to bountifulness -- especially if that road takes you north of your starting point. So, if you'd like your northbound travels to benefit you with good fortune, you'd better ring that same intention so you can get on with all that auspicious good fortune!
Next month, I'll discuss how to approach a southbound trip. For now, happy trails!
When we think of Easter and all the symbols aligned with its energies, we simply have to think of the incredible, edible egg! After all, in a celebration associated with resurrection, it seems only natural that a representation of new life would be an egg -- a symbol of the essence of life itself.
Not only have eggs long been revered for their ability to produce life, but their shells are also said to symbolize the shedding of the old in order for rebirth to take place. Eggshells also represent the earth, while their membranes are aligned with the element of air. Other elements of the egg, including the yolk, are associated with fire and water; thus, eggs contain the four elements that portend the potential of manifestation!
But before manifestation can begin to take place anew, old and stale -- or even evil! -- energies need to be ameliorated. One Middle Eastern tradition designed to break the effects of the "evil eye" and change luck from bad to good dictates that a person should wave a handful of sea salt, tumeric and an egg at anyone suffering from malevolent influences of misfortune; these three objects are then to be taken and left at a crossroads.
This belief dovetails with the European tradition of hanging eggs in homes for protection -- particularly from natural disasters, as well as to guard against an infestation of pests. Feng Shui says that to cleanse and clear the home of negative energies, you'll want to place an egg on a spoon and hold it up in every corner of the house, beginning at the front door and walking the main floor in a clockwise direction. Once you reach the main door, place the egg in a brown paper bag and dispose of it anywhere outside, since it has now absorbed all the negativity hiding away in your home.
No yolk! The egg really is both edible and incredible!