the vicissitudes of spring. . .
in the dark, i tiptoed down the stairs just now. saw the shimmer of white splattered across the front stoop, reflecting the light of the now shrinking Worm Moon, the moon who takes its name from the squirmers arising from winter’s slumber. any worms out there now might consider zippered jackets. same too for all the dear little green things now courageously, audaciously, sticking their necks out, inching their way up and out from deep earth’s underbelly, where they too have been whiling away the winter doing what green things do in their off-months.
to be a springtime bulb here in the middlelands of the continent, where windswept plains and lake-effect snows are part and parcel of the choreography well into april, is to be of hearty mettle. is to be one who tempts the fates. might as well whisper, “dare you to snow on me.” and yet, the heavens do, springtime after springtime, disgorge their fluffy crystals, dump an icy load. as if a test to see who survives, who withers. it’s lord of the flies, garden variety.
there are those of us who’ve been known to awake to such horrors––our tenderlings adorned in icy crystals––who race out the door, a rescue squad in rubber boots, shaking off the snow, applying blankets to the wounded.
i marvel every time at the ones who bounce back. who shake off the mounds of snow, and go right on punctuating march and april with their crayola-crayon-box colors.
and i think of them as parables, consider the wisdoms they suggest. it’s not too hard to draw a straight line from their vernal trials to the ones we humans face. the waning weeks of this winter have dumped a few harsh snows my way, snows that left me just a little bit knocked back. i’ve stared into the abyss of fear, and found that just like those rescue squads who race outside with brooms and blankets to clear away the snow, life drops down its own brigade of heroes, the ones who steady us in our deepest wobbles, the ones who dry our tears. have you ever noticed how much kindness comes in our darkest hours?
i find the gospel of the season, these liminal weeks when the last gasps of winter blow our way, and the full-on percolations of spring aren’t yet arrived, is one of holding onto hope. the leitmotif––don’t be felled by that which falls upon you––is played out, over and over, just beyond my windowpanes. yes, it snows and crushingly so. but then the melt comes. the stems and stalks and itty-bitty buds, undaunted.
i find a hint of fortitude in glancing out the door in the wake of melt, once the day warms up enough to chase away the fluffy stuff, in seeing the green things shake off their trials, sticking their necks out just a wee bit further. i dig deep and decide i, too, will do as the daffodils. i’ll be brave, and set my sights on bursting forth in fullest color. and along the way, i’ll trust in all of those who come running with broom, blanket, and the curative powers of simple kindness.
on the subject of march, i turn to henry david thoreau and his journals, to see what he had to say on the matter.
here, we dip into The Journal: 1837–1861, with entries from March 21, 1853. thoreau was thirty-five and pondering a different kind of thaw.
March. 21. Morning along the river.
Might not my Journal be called “Field notes?”
I see a honeybee about my boat, apparently attracted by the beeswax (if there is any) in the grafting-wax with which I have luted it. There are many; one is caught and killed in it.
P.M.—To Kibbe Place.
It is a genial and reassuring day; the mere warmth of the west wind amounts almost to balminess. The softness of the air mollifies our own dry and congealed substance. I sit down by a wall to see if I can muse again. We are affected like the earth, and yield to the elemental tenderness; winter breaks up within us; the frost is coming out of me, and I am heaved like the road; accumulated masses of ice and snow dissolve, and thoughts like a freshet pour down unwonted channels. Roads lead elsewhither than to Carlisle and Sudbury. Our experience does not wear upon us. It is seen to be fabulous or symbolical, and the future is worth expecting. In all my walking I have not reached the top of the earth yet.
and, finally, i snipped a few lines from a poem of george herbert, the seventeenth-century poet-priest, on the subject of prayer. i love his litany of metaphors for what prayer is, and find that i might meditate on any one of his multiple choices, the last line here most especially, “the soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage”:
George Herbert, “Prayer (I).”
PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage . . .
may the prayers that rise from you this month be ones of resilience, of shaking off the snows that fall. and may our hearts always be in pilgrimage. where do you find wisdom in the stirrings of this cusp of hallelujah’s spring?