Senses of Living® Holidays

March 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

Sunshine and snow! Rain, sleet, mud and wind! Lambs in and lions out, or vice versa. We shall have weather, whether or not! This is partly what comes to mind when I think of March, but most of all, I think of Spring! Despite the bouts of bad weather, I KNOW that the average temperature is increasing, and that the days are becoming longer. That is what I want to celebrate every single day.

So what do I do to celebrate spring? Well, I recycle many of the ideas from February, first of all. Why start from scratch when you already have some momentum?

Plants: Presumably, you already have some plants (if not, get some!). Check out Senses of Living® Holidays for February 2003 if you need to be convinced. Most of the plants that I recommend are members of the aroid family, or Araceae: Philodendron (dozens if not hundreds of species, hybrids and mutations), Epipremnum (the proper name for “devil’s ivy” or “golden pothos,” which comes in several varieties), and Monstera (the most common, M. deliciosa, is also called “split-leaved philodendron,” even though it isn’t a philodendron; there are several other less spectacular but easy to maintain species worthy of a place in your home) are among my favorite recommendations for beginning indoor gardeners, but my #1 recommendation is Syngonium podophyllum (also called “arrowhead plant”), available in a myriad of sizes, colors and shapes. All of these are affordable, beautiful, and are great air purifiers. They are also all vining plants, which is good if you want rapid growth, but which is inconvenient during winter when they have less light and therefore become rather “leggy” (this is a good time to mention that, although all of the above plants can tolerate lower light levels, they will have more compact growth, larger leaves, and, if relevant to their species, greater marbling and increased incisions). Late in March or sometimes early April, I usually start taking cuttings of some of my vines. I cut them down to about an inch of the soil, and then cut the vines into pieces with 2 to 3 leaves (or leaf nodes) per piece (make sure you keep track of which is the soil end and which is the growing end). Stick them in jars and vases around the house to add even more “freshness” to my environment. The cuttings don’t need sunlight like their rooted parents, so spread them around your house or apartment. These cuttings will eventually send out roots (if you keep their containers filled with water to the proper level, which is just covering the lowest leaf or leaf node, no higher!), so you’ll be producing new plants to enrich your home, or gifts to share with your plant-less friends. You’ll also be encouraging the parent plants to send out new shoots which will grow with the increasing light and become luxurious and dense.

Be aware that all of these aroids contain calcium oxalate, an irritating chemical that should not be consumed; reactions vary, from inconsequential, to swollen oral tissues, to difficulty with breathing. I am lucky that none of my pets has ever shown an interest in eating my aroids, but also be aware that this can be a problem. Children who visit my home are always cautioned to not touch the plants, and to definitely not put them in their mouths; use this opportunity to educate your children.

Flowers: Here in Chicago, March is when some of the bulbs start coming up in my neighborhood. Crocus, grape hyacinths, and maybe some jonquils start poking their colorful heads up (sometimes through the snow), and it makes me want to have that color in my home. Unlike some of my neighborhood children, I do NOT pick flowers in the yards of my neighbors, and neither should you. You can go to your garden center and purchase some bulbs just for forcing; put them in a shallow dish, upright and crowded, and you’ll soon be rewarded with blooms. Planting forced bulbs is usually a lost cause, because the bulbs themselves have been weakened, but it won’t hurt to try. Alternatively, there are some beautiful blooming plants that can add color to your home. A friend has a miniature tea rose blooming on her kitchen table. Another friend has some gorgeous pink azaleas around her home. I STILL have an Anthurium (yet another aroid) blooming like a bright red lamp, plus several jewel orchids with long white flower stalks.

Aroma: Here in the chilly north, the radiators are working at full throttle, so I’m still using the beautiful containers of water on my radiators, so I’m still dropping whole spices into them, and sometimes essential oils. This time of year, I feel a need for evergreen, particularly pine (see Holidays below), but also cedar and redwood. Evergreen aromas remind me of being outdoors (where I want to be when the weather begins to warm), but they also remind me of various vacations, which always include some sort of wilderness. I accomplish this with essential oils dropped into my radiator containers, and also a variety of incense. I particularly enjoy a redwood incense I get from California; I don’t really think it has any redwood in it, but it really smells good (beware: some products sold as redwood incense are so perfumed with patchouli and sandalwood that the evergreen effect is overwhelmed). I also have an abundance of citrus peel from my fresh fruit, so I sometimes dry it, and then drop it into the radiator containers. You can also purchase scented candles, but see the caveats in the Senses of Living Holiday ideas for February. Another caveat with candles (as well as burning incense): keep a non-flammable dish underneath candles to control wax drips, and keep all candles away from flammable materials, such as curtains, towels, bedding, furniture, clothing, paper of any kind, wood and plastic. Don’t place burning candles closer than 3” from each other. Keep burning candles out of reach of children and pets. Don’t turn the beautification of your home into a danger for you and your family.

Sound: A big holiday in March is St. Patrick’s Day, so I often play various Celtic and Gaelic tunes. Among my favorites are Enya, Clannad, Capercaillie, and Ceredwen (these last two are Scottish and Welsh, respectively, but they’re good).

Texture: I like to appeal to all senses, and texture is often overlooked. As the weather warms up, I like to incorporate some light colored and coarse-textured (like raw linen or raw silk) pillows into my décor. Or, visit your local fabric store (while you’re picking up some nylon netting; see Sensational Living in the Daily Lifestyle Management section), and select a few yards of a linen-like fabric in a light color that is compatible with the rest of your décor. Using these as a throw will give your home a feeling of elegance, while their texture will give you warmth and excitement. Alternatively, you can enhance your décor with Native American blankets, serapes or saris; visit thrift stores to obtain blankets and other decorative fabrics affordably, and see March 12 (below) for the reason why!

So, how do you decide which of these holiday hints to use? Well, check out the holidays for the month of March:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Month: while we don’t want to celebrate this disorder, we can become aware of it and counter its effects by keeping our environment purified with plants, and brightened with décor.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: again, let’s not celebrate this (unless we are celebrating someone’s survival!). Instead, let’s practice prevention by experimenting with the recipes in the Simple! Sensible! Sensational! Recipes for March 2003 … you’ll have the healthiest colon in your neighborhood, and the happiest mouth!

Frozen Food Month: I’m not sure of the actual purpose of this celebration, but I choose to interpret it celebrating the opportunities we have to preserve our culinary creations for future dates, thus saving time and effort. Do not celebrate this month with prepackaged foods; save money by cooking and freezing your own food! All of this month’s Simple! Sensible! Sensational! Recipes can be easily frozen.

Nutrition Month: Once again, visit March’s Simple! Sensible! Sensational! Recipes and enjoy enhanced nutrition.

March 4: Mardi Gras: see February’s Senses of Living® Holidays.

Early March: Whale Festival: Native Americans along the West Coast of the United States and Canada celebrate the seasonal northward migration of the gray whales this time of year with their young. I’ve been fortunate to see Gray Whales, Finback Whales and Humpback Whales in the wild, and I can help you do the same with my travel planning services. However, now it’s a time of meditation and rebirth, but also movement and celebration. Because my vacations in this area involve the temperate rainforests, full of pine, redwood, cedar, hemlock and fir, I celebrate with incense and essential oils that turn my home into a north woods paradise. Sometimes I also play CDs and tapes featuring whale songs; sure, it’s corny, but it’s also amazingly relaxing.

March 12: Eagle Dance: This celebration, in New Mexico, among Native Americans, mostly Hopi, involves overcoming obstacles, enhancing freedom, and bringing hope. The celebrant, White Shell Woman, brought the Native Americans blankets, hence the reason for adding swatches of color to your décor (I use a Peruvian llama blanket over my horrid floral loveseat to add texture to my living room … it’s cheaper than buying a new loveseat). This is a good time to start thinking about spring cleaning. If you start now, start slowly. Pick a room at a time, and don’t make a production of it. Just move slowly. I’ll discuss this more in April.

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day: There are all kinds of religious connotations to this day, involving Irish saints and snakes (or lack of same). These days, we have more of a secular celebration that often involves green beer (insipid), green wardrobe (unattractive), and here in Chicago, a green river (silly), all recalling the greenery of Ireland, the Emerald Isle. I celebrate with green foliage (omnipresent in my home), Celtic/Gaelic music (see Sound above), and using essential oils and incense to lend a fresh scent reminiscent of Ireland.

March 18-19: Purim: this is one of Judaism’s most joyous holidays, consistent with all of the other holidays in March. Just be happy! Be joyous! Celebrate that you are alive one more day to see the sunrise and the sunset. See if you can name the actual colors in each … it could be a challenge.

March 22: Vernal Equinox/Ostara: Spring is here. From this point on, the daily light exceeds the daily darkness. This is about refreshing everything, about rebirth, about renewal, about balance. In Hopi tradition, there is the celebration of the Butterfly maiden, full of color and joy; consider using butterfly colors as a décor motif.

March 23: Today is both Make Your Own Holiday Day and Organize Your Home Office Day. Since I have already stated that I think every day should be a holiday, make it a reality today. And since everyone does some sort of work at home, get organized now! If you are having trouble, call me; I can help you make sense out of that mess.

March 25: Hilaria: this ancient Roman festival is about humor, merriment and rejoicing. Sounds like a good idea to me. Let’s celebrate it 365 days a year. (FYI, some state that Hilaria is actually a collection of celebrations from March 22-25, celebrating the return of Spring, now that the days ARE actually longer than the nights).

April 1: April Fool’s Day. This holiday can trace its origin back to Teutonic and Nordic celebrations of the trickster Loki, as well as extensions of the Roman Hilaria. In modern days, it has taken on an air of silliness and even cruelty. Consider the original concepts of humor, playfulness and youthfulness: feel young again, be playful, and laugh at yourself. Share a joke with coworkers or family members or friends. Be alive!

As you can see, March is a month of joy, refreshment, and happiness! Embrace these qualities every day of the year. You won’t regret it.