Spring! Everything has risen! Alleluia!

William Cullen Bryant writes:

To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

So it is with spring. The awakening of the world calls for an awakening of the spirit within. Enough with cold, and snow, and bare trees, enough with staying indoors and darker musings. We are called to enjoy the warmth, to dig in the dirt, to search for the first signs of green life.

This year I actually managed to catch the pussywillows in their prime, before they turned yellow with pollen and fuzziness. March is the month for pussywillows. Before you think anything could be out, they are there, glistening in the sun. Then come the crocuses. They don’t care if it snows on them–they can handle it. Then daffodils and hyacinths and forsythia. Now, at the end of April, they are done, but tulips and violets abound. The lilacs are budding. The peach tree has bloomed. Dandelions all over the lawn try to out-do the sun. The trees are leafing out with the pale green of spring.

It’s time to think about the vegetable garden. Still too early to put in tomatoes (an absolute MUST) but peas are up, parsley is happy. The perennial rhubarb and horse radish are obvious but I am looking in vain for the first asparagus spears. We may yet have a hard frost and we must be realistic about not putting plants in the ground too early, tempting as it is with the soil workable and the sun bright.

After the long winter, spring reminds us of new life, and growing, and the promise of coming harvest. A few days ago I was amazed to notice a nest on the rosebush trellis. The next day I saw a robin sitting in it. When had that happened? The trellis outdoors is a mere 20 feet from my computer indoors. Have I been so preoccupied with blogging that I never noticed the nest-building? Surely I must get out more and enjoy the wonder of spring. Today there’s an egg – one egg – in the nest. Robin-blue, of course. Everywhere I look the world is burgeoning with life! I can empathize with Edna St. Vincent Millay who cried out, “Oh, world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

When my daughter, Peggy, was killed, I found flowers strangely comforting. The panoply of colors, the delicacy of petals, the extravagant beauty lavished on something that is here today, gone tomorrow. Few flowers last more than a week, the orchid being a happy exception. Perhaps flowers were comforting because they were not an end in themselves. They spoke of beauty in the service of life, part of an ongoing plan – bud, flower, seed, new life, bud, flower, seed – each ordered to the next stage.

There’s a lot of poem after my opening quote above but Bryant’s Thanatopsis ends thus:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Approach thy grave with an unfaltering trust? When my mother was older than I am now, I made her a plaque with a simple yet profound quote I picked up some place and loved:

“Into the hand that made the rose, shall I with trembling fall?”

Is it odd that I should have chosen to insert a poem called “a view of death” (Thanatopsis) into a piece about welcoming new life? Not really.

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24