Robins and chickadees trill the news—the sun is back! For one breath-holding moment both hemispheres are equally graced with its abundant light. Welcome Equinox! For those of us shuddering in the frigid, dark north, our hearts leap to behold the first signs of spring. Persephone shakes off the shades of death renewing a promise of life eternal. As her mother Demeter smiles in welcome, sap runs in the trees, and as she rushes to embrace her beloved daughter, the Goddess of the Grain leaves a trail of demurely nodding snowdrops and perky crocuses in her wake. She calls out to us in her joy. As bulbs send up doughty spear tips from the earth’s womb, within us, tentative green tendrils emerge. We are uncertain how this nascent growth will manifest, but we greet it with wonder.
The stasis of winter is broken, but early spring is more emergence than bloom. The sap is running now but it will be May, here in New England, before the trees are in leaf. Especially in this second spring of the pandemic, it is important to ease out of hibernation slowly. Covid quarantines pulled us abruptly out of our familiar routines and away from connections with others. This moment of equal light and dark offers an opportunity to discern what we have learned from this experience and to figure out the balance we need between our private and public lives, and between structured activity and free time. Freedom is a chance to pause, to remember, and to dream into being the possibilities we can envision as we stop to gaze high into a venerable beech tree’s wide network of bare branches as it fans out inscribing the blue sky. What messages of hope can we read there?
Spring, the quintessential time of rebirth, reminds us that each new cycle is seeded in loss. Shakespeare’s Hamlet refers to death as, “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” This is of course true except in sacred stories to which meaningful rituals such as the Eleusinian Mysteries and Easter are attached. There is no Resurrection without death first. Why do we need Persephone to return and Jesus to rise from the dead? Perhaps we desire some continuity of soul that matches earth’s annual cycle of renewal.
Spring is a state of mind that invites us to engage with life’s possibilities. What seeds planted long ago are springing to life now that require our attention? For what have the current circumstances of our lives now created an opening?
To be old is to live in a world shaped by the legacy not only of our parents’ generation but of our own. We are the grandmothers and great aunts or even the great grandmothers and great great aunts whose youth happened long ago before many people alive today were born. While the past still lives within us, the future we once dreamed of is manifesting itself before our eyes. It may feel like much of what we have achieved is behind us, and yet the sound of life buzzes in our ears; we are still here. What renewed commitments does this spring ask us to make?
Walking through a public garden during the last week of winter, I noticed a huge, dry hydrangea blossom still clinging to its stalk where it had presided over empty flower beds all winter. Covetous desire flooded my soul. I needed to claim this flower as my own. I crept close. After looking stealthily about to make sure I was alone, I reached out and bent the stalk back and forth, careful not to disturb any new growth, until my purloined grand dame rested in my hand. To me she represented the wisdom of the past I was bringing forth into the present.
Recently, I began checking in with a computer app, “We Croak,” that cheerfully reminds me five times a day that I will die with quotes that are surprisingly life affirming. One of these is by Russell Baker, who notes, “We all come from the past, and children ought to know what it was that went into their making, to know that life is a braided cord of humanity stretching up from time long gone, and that it cannot be defined by the span of a single journey from diaper to shroud.”
As individual humans, we hum the melodies and tap the rhythms of life unique to us as, together with all other beings, we keep life moving, and then pass it on to be picked up, sung, and improvised upon by succeeding generations. This sharing of wisdom across time magnifies humanity’s strength and encourages us to craft a positive legacy for our descendants. In the words of a popular New Age chant, “We are an old people; we are a new people; we are the same people wiser than before.”
Spring is the miracle of life renewing itself. May you find hope in your heart and rise up singing out of loss, worry, or despair to see the world with fresh eyes.
In the spirit of hope and new beginnings,