Spring has sprung. Bulbs are popping out of the soggy ground, peeking out of snowy mounds in some parts of the country and the neighbor’s cat has that certain look in her eye. The poets of old tell us in the spring a young man’s fancy turns to love. Since I am neither young nor male, I can’t really verify that. I do know this as the time when nature enters her cycle of new birth and rebirth. Young chicks and ducklings are pecking their way out of speckled shells, breaking through to a world that will astound them. Bears are coming out of hibernation, undoubtedly hungry and in need of a shower, yawning…if bears yawn and probably needing to brush their teeth. Talk about morning breath. Logically if they desire all of those things, they could achieve all at once by finding a nice, chilly, flowing river full of salmon and jumping in. Isn’t nature wonderful?
For those of us who live with chronic pain or constant disease, we are wondering. Do I have the strength to do this spring trip bit once again? I know we desire the warmth of the sun, the cleanliness of the spring breezes but where do we find the strength to rebloom and to follow this cycle again? Most of us are tired, worn, chilled and wondering when will tomorrow’s strength arrive? Our expectations are basic, our desires practical as we search our hearts, minds and test our bodies in a challenge of sorts.
Have we grown accustomed to settling for less as we settle for desiring the simple things in life like taking that next breath, living one hour or one day without pain or finding the strength to face just a couple of hours of the demands of domestic life that are always calling to us. Oh dear, the sun is shining and each ray uncovers a dust ball, a spider’s web hidden by the dark of winter, or a window splattered with the dust from wind and the dried drops of rain. I have found tiny ants returning to frustrate us in the kitchen, flies buzzing to come in at the screen door and our early search for fleas in the yard before they find our tiny Yorkie and torment him.
Our memories can often torment us if we think too long about all that we once could do like heavy gardening, traveling or just sliding down a grassy knoll with our children or grandchildren, laughing because we each have green slime staining clean jeans. Some of us have lost our childlike wonder at challenge upon challenge and now dread what must be done. Spring with signs of renewal and rebirth also bring about a new series of responsibilities to face as weeds pop up, those swinging spiders and spring cleaning. I used to wonder why it was always called spring cleaning until I figured out it is because the sunlight and clues from nature make it impossible to ignore what we could ignore in the dark, cold days of winter.
Each of us have to decide for ourselves what we are capable of, what dreams we want to fulfill and what is important to us. A rebirth of thoughts, challenges and hope also spring forth in all of us, forcing us to get up, get out if we can and do what brings us joy. What will it be? A new yellow rose planted outside the window, a few seeds of herbs pushed into damp planting mix, a trip to visit loved ones? Each of us are being called to stop, review, renew and make decisions. Some will be sad as we are not as strong as we once were or there is some new challenge to surmount. Others are just practical as life moves on and those around us grow older, aging old friends or children going off to college summer courses or new jobs, never to be quite the same children we loved and always will. Other practical matters will present themselves as we see chores we cannot ignore, some pleasant and some tiresome toil. Nature actually speaks to us in the form of a robin perched outside a dusty window, or a young potted plant reaching out white, creeping tendrils begging to be planted in soil so they can “take off” and live the life they were destined to become. A plant’s expectations are basic also. Give them fertile soil, a bit of water and an occasional haircut and they will thank you for the length of their cycle, whatever that may be. Others, like primroses will surprise you and pop up each year, like the proverbial ferns we have growing all over Oregon.
Renewal comes for nature but will it come for you and me? It could be up to us whether or not to answer the knocking at the door. We may be weakened by the many forms of misery we have experienced but are we nailed to the floor? I don’t think so because you and I are still alive. I often wonder, can you scrub the human spirit, vacuum it, polish it or Windex it to let life shine in?
It only takes one spark to start a fire and begin its roar. It takes just one root looking for nitrogen to grow into a plant. A wee babe begins as a fertilized ovum and grows into a human being. I always find it amazing and life affirming to see the power of growth, cell upon cell, multiplying, dividing and building life. This theory applies also to chores and varying tasks. One window washed, one cupboard sorted, one bag of used clothing for a charity can begin as small tasks and end there for this day. Tomorrow brings new energy for another tiny task.
There is a tiny primrose on our back porch, returning for the fifth year. Covered and protected by wilted brown leaves, it waits and is already revealing tiny pink buds showing eagerness to have a taste of sunshine so it can leave its enclosure of leaves and grow larger with each day. I wonder if we have a tiny bud growing within our spirits and painful bodies? Once again, an effort is required by us. Since we aren’t plants, bears or chicks, we have to choose to move, to reach out, to clean, to smile and yes, to be happy.
I suspect each of us have the bud of a dream if we can summon the courage to look for it and acknowledge it. It is far easier to give into the darkness of lethargy and pain than to make an effort but there is life at the end of that effort…that is the reward. Consider it the carrot on the stick and the ring above the carousel horse.
We each must decide, are we alive or are we dead? Can you be a little bit dead? I think you can, but that means you are also a little bit alive. In early spring when I work in the garden, which is really just many pots sprinkled around my porch and deck, the question is always there after winter. Is this plant alive or dead as I prune away tiny dead branches and brown leaves? Is this brown stalk alive or dead as I prune the hollow brown away and begin to reach one that is alive and perhaps is already shooting a tiny geranium flower of crimson red? That plant that is experiencing rebirth is both dead and alive.
Let us agree, shall we, to look for the tiny buds of life in us and treat them with the soil of hope for renewal, the water of expectations of joy and the trim them to fit our lives as they are now. Does that mean for many of us that we will live and search while we have pain? Yes. Anticipation and hope can help that pain to fade. I can hardly wait for the farmer from Washington state who brings down a truckload of the tiniest, deepest red and amazing strawberries each day so I can freeze them, eat them and make freezer jam. The bees and I look forward to old lavender plants with a couple of new ones, bursting into pale purple bloom, releasing their fragrance into the air and I look forward to the tiny basil plants I prefer that look like tiny bushes and will last the summer growing beside a thyme plant. I love fresh pesto spread onto a fresh loaf of French bread, don’t you? I will also pick fresh bay leaves from our large bay tree that began from a small gallon size years ago, purchased at our Sunday market. I share those with anyone who wants them, so fresh, flavorful and green compared to the faded brown bay leaves at the local Safeway market.
We may not be as frisky as a kitten but we can still shake our bootie…well, once or twice. We may not reach out in new growth like the mighty Oak tree but we can stand as tall as our bodies will allow and do our best to strengthen them. There is one thing I know for certain; we each can bloom. The best and most beautiful blooms come from the heart.