Spring is here, really and truly here at last. It wasn’t really a hard winter; in fact, we didn’t HAVE a winter until late, probably mid-January really. But then it was so cold, so snowy, so bleak and dreary…
Sometimes I wonder if what bothers me about winter isn’t the visual aspect – the leafless trees; the browns and grays that predominate instead of the lovely greens of spring and summer; the weak, watery sunlight – but rather the ebb of the life force in the earth around me. Because for some reason, my mood starts to lift even before the colors change; it’s as if I can feel the life force rising in everything around me, and my spirit responds. Maybe it’s more prosaic than that – probably it is. Probably it is my neurochemical reaction to the strengthening sunlight and longer hours of daylight. Probably it is purely scientific in nature and nothing to get excited about. But it doesn’t feel that way, it doesn’t seem that way, and I don’t care. I like this feeling, the notion that I am a part of the network of life and energy around me and I respond to it as it responds to me. I like being alive and energized and awake and in touch, connected to everything out there. If I’m fruity, okay. That’s fine. I like fruity.
I like walking, feeling every footstep as a momentary burst of connection to the earth and all that is in it. I like breathing the damp, misty air and taking in the scent of earth, of small green things springing into the light, of early buds and blooms. I like the first bursts of birdsong on a Saturday morning, when every single little winged thing is pouring its heart into a paean of joy at the return of the sun. I love listening to the hiss and rush of water over stones in the creekbed as I’m experiencing all of this, and wondering at so much beauty just a few feet from my doorstep. I like being so lifted, so transported by this experience, of a simple morning walk, that I am dizzy with the sensations and the euphoria.
I wish that I could hold on to that, that I could carry it with me all day. I wish there were a pocket in which I could store it away, to be touched and savored whenever daily life, with all its petty irritations and intolerances, begins to weigh my spirit down. Life is joy, life should be joy, and when we say “life gets you down” we don’t really mean life. We mean the petty, artificial motions and routines and jealousies and dissatisfactions that we call life. They are not life. Life is around us – life is out there to be seen and heard and felt and smelled – but it is not these things. These things are only a superstructure, a framework that we build around our feelings and thoughts to give them form – but we are poor sculptors and the shape we make falls far short of the reality.
I wish that I could know that always, and not just at these brief moments of glorious epiphany. I wish that I could burn this knowledge into my soul, to bear with me every second, so that when I hear a word or see an action that brings a sullen twist of angry dissatisfaction to my mouth, I could retreat into this knowledge and counter that word or action with a smile, with an upward lift of true joy that would startle the do-er or say-er into perhaps, for one moment, sharing that knowledge.
I wish that I could spread joy, that I could be the “carrier” of this seed of truth and joy…perhaps that is my true goal in life. To be merely a vessel for truth and joy and the glory of life, a conduit through which it is transported to touch the lives of others. To do that, however, I must first allow it to fill me, and I am afraid that is where I falter.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that we must be mindful, must water the seeds of joy and compassion, and treat with gentle understanding the seeds of anger so that they can bloom into loving kindness. I do strive to do that…I must strive, not harder, but more. I must be mindful and water the right seeds, so that the garden of my soul is a beautiful one and not a place of fear and anger and intolerance.
Perhaps that is the entire purpose of winter – to provide a backdrop for the glory of spring, which will remind us through its very contrast of the beauty of life? For it is at this time of year that I find myself thinking these thoughts; not in the riotous heat and noise of summer, nor the calm unwinding of fall (maybe a little, but not so much), nor the quiet stillness of the waiting winter, but in the glorious burst of beauty and life that is spring.