Friends of mine who live south of us have sent pictures of flowers blooming. I am glad for their joy and for the hope that these colors bring. I am glad for them, but also a tiny bit envious. Here, it is still cold and overcast. Lake Michigan still looks wintry in color. I must reach to believe that spring will come.
The death numbers from the virus rise. All around us there is loss. The weeks of sequestering will likely become months of sequestering. This virus has made this winter bleak not only literally but metaphorically as well. And, just like the spring here, I’m afraid change is still a long way off.
I have lived in the north for five years now, and though I will likely always begrudge spring’s late arrival, I have begun to learn and appreciate the subtler signs of spring when they come. Here are just three of them:
I have heard the Sand-Hill Cranes calling. A pair is back in the far meadow. At their first rattle-y cry, I made Dave come outdoors with me to listen. In only our sweaters, we shivered in the wind, but the sound made us glad.
It’s no lie about those robins. One day there were over ten in our yard, picking at the grass on the top inch or so that has thawed. Below that, the ground is still hopelessly frozen. It is far too early to begin thinking of planting a garden, but the robins were delighting in that top inch of soil.
And then there is this: the maple buckets in nearby woods have been put onto the trees; the sap has begun to flow. This still amazes me: the secret stirring inside the trunks of tall trees that look every bit as dormant and shut-down today as they did in the below-zero temps of January. But in some way unknown, the sap has started its coursing. The tall maple branches high over my head have begun to suck water from the ground; there are canals, viaducts, channels flowing in the interior of every tree.
The sight of maple buckets makes me know that something is happening, that change is coming, however slow and hidden from view.
The virus has made us all more aware of un-seeable forces at work. We must wash our hands, spray disinfectant to ward off invisible enemies, avoid hugs because germs that attach themselves to me or to you can do damage even to those we love. It makes us afraid. It wears us thin. It is terrible.
However long this horrible virus will last, and however much bleakness and death will accompany it, it will not last forever.
Easter is only a few weeks away, and it offers us what we need so badly to hear. Christianity says there is a hero of the story that has made sure that death will not last forever. Whether Christianity is your faith or not, it is easy to see that nature gives us a welcome metaphor. The maples and robins and cranes remind us: eventually, winter will be over. Yes, there are un-seeable enemies, and they are ravaging us. But hidden from our view, there is also invisible regeneration; there is also unsee-able redemption. Someday, it will be spring.
Faith, the Bible says, is believing in the things we hope for, having a certainty, or assurance in the things that are unseen.
Note: I started writing this post several days ago. We’ve had two days of glorious sunshine since. This morning, I, too, had crocuses!