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The Warm Hope of a Cold Spring

“A cold spring:
the violet was flawed on the lawn.
For two weeks or more the trees hesitated;
the little leaves waited,
carefully indicating their characteristics.
Finally a grave green dust
settled over your big and aimless hills…

The infant oak-leaves swung through the sober oak.
Song-sparrows were wound up for the summer,
and in the maple the complementary cardinal
cracked a whip, and the sleeper awoke,
stretching miles of green limbs from the south…”

Excerpts from “A Cold Spring”
By Elizabeth Bishop

A few weeks ago at Corhaven, Tara Haley was describing the current state of the garden, remarking that the asparagus, normally well developed by mid-April, had not even poked their heads out of the ground yet. It has been a cold spring.

In the awkwardly small elevators of my building, the 10-15 seconds of conversation I get with my neighbors who are inclined to speak most often involves the weather. As any Jane Austen reader knows, it’s one of only two topics about which one can reliably have a short, pleasant conversation*. And, I can attest, great is the anguish of a too-long winter among the residents of Port Royal condominiums. But, thank God, the temperature has creeped up enough now to signal to the trees that it is time: Unleash your blossoms, your new life! Unfurl your glories once again!

“The sleeper awoke…”.  It’s what the arrival of spring feels like every year, whenever it comes. Particularly this year, the arrival of new life after a long winter has reminded me of God’s faithfulness and goodness after a long season of hardship. There is something that keeps us more subdued and still in winter, and I’ve learned to look for ways to see it as a good thing.  There are plenty of them. But the first day when I was able to go outside unprotected from winter elements, walk my well-worn paths, and see the fluorescent green of new leaves on trees, smell the scent of new life in the air, feel, even amidst the lingering chill, the underlying warmth of new growth and life, I felt like God was waking me up again, along with his Creation.

It is important to take time to be outside.  We spend a lot of time in controlled, man-made environments, designed for consistency and insulation against uncontrollable outside factors that can hinder productivity or comfort. We must remove ourselves from these environments often to put ourselves in the way of Creation, uninsulated, and perhaps a bit inconvenienced or uncomfortable, to be reminded of the reality of God’s authorship in the things all around us, and the way he is always working in it. We must be out in our environment to see it changing, give thanks for it, and see the ways it can draw us into worship of the Creator, and be taught by him in very small and very big ways.  

Being outside this spring has reminded me that in a season where it felt like everything was dark and dying, God was still moving and present. And now, as I explore outside my cubicle walls, I see what the winter has enabled to spring forth from the earth once again.  Tara sent me a special update about the asparagus (I was concerned for them). She gleaned a huge bunch on Monday and is excited to see how they will continue to strengthen and grow throughout this season. I am too. I am encouraged by those little green spears, fighting through the cold ground into the warm sunlight.  Maybe they can encourage us all to be more awake to the current seasons in our lives, where God is growing us, and bringing forth new life.

*The other is the condition of the roads, in case you were wondering.