The Wildness of Spring
This week, as the Pacific Northwest welcomed its warmest, sunniest days of the year so far, we found ourselves looking back to this post that Becky Allender wrote five years ago for Red Tent Living, reflecting on the fullness of spring in all of its beauty, chaos, hope, and change. These words have taken on a new layer for Becky, as March marks two years since the death of her mother-in-law. Becky invites us to welcome the full complexity of the season, opening ourselves to grief, beauty, uncertainty, new life, and everything else that spring holds.
Oh, whoa! I just saw my right hand typing when I was struck cold in my thoughts: “Oh, really! This is my hand? Yikes! You have got to be kidding.” In a sick way, it took my breath away.
I was shocked at this random observation. I had just been thinking about March and how much I have always loved my birth month. Already this morning I have taken two trips from our home in wildly different weather patterns. The heather is blooming and breathtaking, if I say so myself! Bouquets of witch hazel, flowering cherry, and crabapple branches fill the rooms in our home. Bouquets of primroses and daffodils grace counters and tables. (I need to go buy more tulips.) Hope and life abound in anticipation of what is coming. March is in its full spring today! Our gardens are erupting, worms are on the patio, branches are flying across the yard, and birds are being blown by the wind, while rain pounds the hood of my coat. I love the force of spring.
“It was one of the March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”
–Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Quite a few springs ago, my husband went to an acupuncturist who told him why his body might be feeling as disrupted as his symptoms exhibited. He said that 70 percent of the earth’s growth occurs in eight weeks’ time—crazy reality! It is a time of massive eruption, realignment, and movement. It is also called the period of warriors, when the armies go to war. It is a period of chaos and decisions that do not need to be made and possibly should not be made because often we are implosive, combative, and caught up in the chaos.
“It is a time of massive eruption, realignment, and movement. It is also called the period of warriors, when the armies go to war.”
“Everything is blooming recklessly: if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of night.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke
Children actually grow a bit more in spring than other times. People get spring fever, a term applied to several sets of physical and psychological symptoms associated with the arrival of spring. In general, it refers to an increase in energy, vitality, and sexual appetite, often particularly strong in those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Sometimes spring fever can be the opposite. Weariness, dizziness, and irritability can intrude into our households. My husband has his second recurrence of vertigo this spring. It leveled him last spring as well.
Hormone balance plays a role too. The body’s reserve of the “happiness hormone,” serotonin, whose production depends on daylight, becomes exhausted over winter. Our bodies are connected to the earth! This winter has been a rough one for most of our country. When the days become longer, the body readjusts its hormone levels, and more endorphins, testosterone, and estrogen are released. This may put a heavy strain on the body. We are God’s creation, and we too have had to go deep into our reserves physically and spiritually during the dark, winter months—just as the earth and the seeds within have done.
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want it—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so.”
The aroma and colors of today are vibrant to my long depleted eyes, heart, and senses. My joy is great as I look around. I feel invigorated with hope and anticipation. This is one month you will not hear me complain about the rain.
Back to my right hand! It looks like my mother-in-law’s hand, and she is almost 91! Seriously, I am a bit freaked out. Just a bit ago, I was doing yoga with a room filled with young women and felt the energy and vitality around me. The music, the peppermint aromatherapy on my collarbone, the release of goodness that comes from stretching, balancing, and breathing in 95-plus-degree heat enlivened me. Joy and gratefulness accompanied me home.
But now, this wrinkled hand with blue protruding veins confronts me with a different reality. That is, I am way past halfway to heaven! So much for my birth month; I am way closer to my death month. I think age 27 is when our body starts “going downhill.” But at 27 I did not feel like I was going downhill. I was just beginning to have babies, and so much life and goodness was ahead. It seems the best is over—if I choose to stop at the sight of my right hand.
Yes, that is what happened. I plummeted like the birds in the wind out my window. I stopped dead and forgot to look ahead. Ahead to a life of trusting in ways I have never had to before. Trusting in His strength with a depleting body. Trusting in a new way of living that means more grace to keep living. A new grace of appreciation of what has been. A new grace of appreciation of what will be. (A new grace of giving care to a husband with vertigo!) A new “next thing.” You see, it’s all new ahead, even with a body fading away. There is a new trust going on with my Heavenly Father. The spring abounds with newness and hope. The remaining days of my life I will cling to the hope of what is not seen but what I hold to be true. There is a new day where this right hand will be made new.