In search of spring

 

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We took a walk in the woods yesterday. It felt like spring.

The water of the mere was still, but for a few slow ripples stirred by the movement of birds: goldeneye, teal and widgeon. A pair of great crested grebes, in the shallows pulling at roots and weeds, looked like they might be getting ready to build a nest. Buds were sprouting on the dark twigs of hawthorn and there were lamb’s tail catkins hanging in the sun. Underfoot a delicate carpet of tiny green leaves were making a show, nettles, sweet ceicely, wood anemone, cow parsley, many textured, in every shade of green. Lesser celandine, gorse and coltsfoot; some of our favourite first flower of spring are yellow. Their shining faces bring out of hibernation all the humming insects and the bees.

Sitting in the hide with the window open and the sun shining on my face I came to think of images of spring and the power they have over us. We can be renewed inwardly when the  black branches come into bud and the first shoots of flowering bulbs stand proud from the cold ground. When the days grow longer we understand more clearly than before how a light has shined in the darkness and the darkness can never put it out.

The writer of the Song of Song said this:

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.

It has!

They do!

I will!

Spring will reign forever as a powerful image of renewal and hope in every Christian heart. Yet walking in the woods yesterday, it was not enough. I have done this nearly every year of my life. I’ve seen it before and been cheered by it before. I will be cheered by it again. But we have struggled and we have been troubled. It is not a casual thing, it is not easily swept away. It isn’t that the imagery of spring is inadequate only that we hunger for more; this bright shining light, this chance to see all things made new. We dig deeper, look more closely, wonder more ferociously, write with more care. We know that the beauty of the earth is never quite enough.

I prayed that God would speak to me in new and startling ways outside of cliches and well worn phrases. Or, I prayed that I would get beneath the thin skin of the too familiar words and images to the heart of the message, to the heart of me, to the heart of him. That I would know myself startled by this voice, truly taken aback by what he says, listening and watching for something more. That I would have courage when I am stirred by this beautiful world to know that feeling for what it is: a holy call to something more.

A holy call to something more.

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Spring

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

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For Cathie, who reminded me of this beautiful poem this morning, thank you.