Meditations on Spring

The world was dead for a while, it seemed. We trudged our way through endless piles of snow. This snow was grey, splotched with black, trodden over by thousands of shoes. But it was too cold for it to melt, and so it stayed. The grey snow piled on top of the frozen streams, so even the streams appeared to be dead. There was water running underneath, of course, but we couldn’t see that.

The trees were naked and bleak. Their branches seemed to spike out rather than reach. They seemed sharp and dangerous to us. If we got too close, they might gash us.

And so we wore our layers. Hats, gloves, socks, sweater, coat, another coat. The temperature dipped below zero, and stayed there for about a week. We avoided going outside. Even a short walk from one building to another was an undertaking. It seemed to us that nothing had ever been beautiful, that nothing had ever been alive, that the world was cold and dead and would be forever.

And then.

And then, by some new enchantment, the world came back to life. How it happened, we never could tell. Why it happened was even more of a mystery. All that we know is that it did, and that we were so thankful.

The sun appeared again, in all its golden splendor. It had appeared before, when the world was dead, but it had seemed far-off and unfeeling. It only revealed to us what we already knew – that the world was grey, that nothing was alive. It only showed, it did not touch. And so we looked at the ground, not at the sun. Now it touched us. It warmed our faces. And it touched more than us. It touched the trees, it touched everything, and its soft, translucent fingers of light began to absorb the grey. The snow that had covered the fields for so long with a coat of grey dreariness began to melt, and rivulets of water traveled down the paths. We didn’t mind our wet feet anymore, because this was a new wetness, no longer so cold. We shed our coats and sat outdoors in just our sweaters. Something green appeared, and then more. Soon the green of the fields overpowered the grey. Soon the grey was no more.

The world was coming back to life, and with it, our souls, too. Unbeknownst to us, we had been close to death ourselves all of that time. We thought we were braving the grey world as living beings, but it was slowly sapping the life from us. We began to notice only at the very end, when we could scarcely walk, when it was easier not to think, when we whiled the time away. But life was heralded again with the green, and our own selves began to look again toward the sun. How could we have ever thought that nothing would spring from the earth? And it seemed that the dead world had never been, that the world had always been bright and new. And it seemed to us that the world would be like this forever, that nothing would ever die again.

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;         5
  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.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins


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