I am inspired and renewed by the vernal equinox. The inspiration comes out of the promise that spring offers. In spite of everything that has gone on these past 12 months, buds are growing on tree limbs, bulbs are pushing their colorful selves out from under the dirt, and the birds are singing up a storm.
The renewal comes from having experienced 66 previous springs and being grateful to be here for my 67th. This year, I am so very aware that many people did not live to see this vernal equinox and just how precious it is to be alive.
Energy of Spring
The older I get, the more I appreciate the energy of spring. I am reassured when I see familiar scenes of mustard in the vineyards. I am soothed when the light lingers a bit longer each night. There is a softness in the breeze that counters the pent up tension of everything that blooms. I can go to bed and wake to find new growth everywhere, as if some switch had been turned on. The days are warmer while the nights remain cool. Ground fog lingers in the vineyards until the morning sun burns it off.
I grew up in the Midwest. Spring was never a given there. Sometimes spring would last a week or a day and then it would return to winter for several more weeks. Or, except for marking it on the calendar, we might jump right into summer.
One Easter, dressed in my straw hat and patent leathers shoes, I remember picking daisies and bringing them to my grandmother who put them in a vase and set them on the window sill. The screens had just been put on, so the breeze came in along with the flowers. The next year (or maybe one or two later), there was snow, and no daisies in a vase. Instead, the storm windows remained in place.
There were a series of rituals that unfolded along with the vernal equinox. These had nothing to do with the religious observations of Passover, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, or Easter. A winter’s worth of decomposed leaves and other ground matter had to be raked. Flower beds needed to be turned and annuals planted. The tailing left after the snow began to melt revealed remnants of decomposing curbing, roadbeds now cracked from water freezing and melting, and occasional bits and bobs of cigarette butts and other human detritus.
Winter clothes had to be packed away in moth balls and boxes and put in the back of the closet or under the bed. Storm windows needed to be taken down, washed, and stored in the basement. Screens needed to be repaired and put up. Once the snow had finally stopped, snow tires were swapped for regular tires, the winter-weight oil changed, and the car washed.
And then the earth would tilt toward the sun and shake off its winter crust. With the lengthening days and increased temperatures shoots of new grass and dandelions would appear. Lilacs would begin to bloom, sending their scent over the soft breezes and either making me sneeze or inhale more deeply. Birds and bugs and all kinds of creatures would emerge from hibernation and the world would reawaken.
The danger, of course, of this time of year is that things are just in their beginning stages. They are vulnerable and haven’t grabbed hold or anchored themselves yet. They have not reached the maturity of summer or the bounty of autumn.
With the melting of the snow comes a chance of flooding. With spring rains come the chance of mudslides. With the birthing of new life comes the possibility that it will be denied its full arc and succumb to disease or predators.
I Choose to Believe
The amazing thing to me though, is that every year I choose to believe in the promise of Spring. This year feels particularly special. It is easily attributed to having been in COVID lock down for the past 12 months, but it seems to be more than that.
I am feeling the sap rising in me. It is a burst of creativity seeking expression. It is impulsivity looking for a hug. It is power and freedom coming from having survived the past year. I am emboldened to say things I might previously have kept to myself. I am eager to literally stretch my legs and return to traveling. And I want to do it in the company of others!
Coming to Terms
The most difficult aspect of this past winter for me wasn’t being alone, but coming to terms with what that preference means as I continue to age. I have to put more effort into staying connected with my current circle of friends and be more intentional in seeking new connections. I need to overcome my judgment and timidity to be around people who may act, think, dress, and define personal safety differently from me. I need to be willing to risk making mistakes as well as curtailing my own impulsivity and consider how my actions will impact others.
I know the time is coming where I will need to ask for help and depend on the kindness of strangers. My lesson from COVID is that there are many openhearted and caring people who are willing to help. I suspect I will always prefer to be the provider rather than the receiver, but I am getting better at receiving.
Seeds of Change
There were many seeds planted during this pandemic. Seeds of change that are taking root. They are still vulnerable, and in some cases may have been crowded out by earlier plantings of hatred and racism. Like the snow in my Midwestern childhood, as the melt off continues, there will be things uncovered that are ugly and need to be removed.
And so we will remove them. There is no denying spring. Maybe that is the most essential of understandings. As long as the earth continues its rotation around the sun, the promise of spring will be kept.