To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

– Wordsworth

 

When daylight-saving time got moved up by a couple of weeks, some people complained that they were stuck in the dark in the morning when they had just become used to seeing the sun rise.

That’s understandable — doing something as fundamental to our lives as moving the clock forward and back says that there’s an impermanence to time itself that seems almost a violation of the laws of nature.

Nevertheless, the complaints died out as the hours of sunlight grew greater than the hours of darkness when the planet sped in its orbit past the imaginary sign posted in space that says: “Vernal equinox.”

But then, nature is change: What could be more temporary than the span of daylight itself, relentlessly expanding in the spring, dominating the summer and slowly relinquishing control in the fall?

At our latitudes, the world appears to be mourning in October, the leaves expiring in a blaze of glory before collapsing to the ground.

But that annual death, over thousands of years, has given us the soil that gardeners now anticipate tilling with joy as the weather warms in concert with the sun’s ascendancy.

For those close to the soil, spring is the true beginning of the year. This is when the renewal happens, when the earth itself welcomes human intervention. The beauty of a garden is not impaired by the fact that a mountain meadow, a forest glen or a seaside clifftop can be carpeted in beauty by nature’s generous hand spreading wildflowers with joyous abandon, planted not for our sake but for theirs.

Still, that we can replicate and expand the scope of beauty into our yards and walkways is no diminution of that wonder, but a participation in it. The hand that plants a seed cooperates with nature, it doesn’t overrule or negate it.

It is that imitation of natural profligacy that is indeed the sincerest form of flattery: a desire for splendor so intense it becomes almost greed, that would be greed if it supplanted nature’s acts instead of paying tribute to them. The glory of nature, after all, is not that any given part of the annual cycle of death and rebirth is permanent, but that the cycle itself is.

Particularly in northern realms, where half the year is spent either in the grip of winter or in anticipation of it or recovery from it, people value the first few warm days and weeks in ways those who inhabit more temperate climes find hard to imagine.

Yet, so many of us, when and if we can afford it, flee the cold and snow for environments either greener or drier, turning the seasons inside out by travel, rejecting the snowy fields and the bare deciduous branches of the north for the lands of palm trees and cactus.

The motive is understandable — the human heart craves greenness and growth, and there is no joy in shivering and cold, damp feet.

Yet, there is something lost in those thousand-mile retreats from winter. Traveling from warmth to warmth is comfortable, to be sure, but those who remain behind gain something the snowbirds have forsaken.

Those now returning will not experience the sheer joy of these days, coming earlier this year than most and perhaps still vulnerable to late storms.

Still, we who remained feel as if a weight has been lifted, or a door opened, or a gift received from an unexpected source.

Spring has lived in our imaginations for so many months that, as we leave the boots, scarves, gloves and heavy coats behind and venture outdoors to feel the sun and breeze, we not only experience the warmth, we absorb it, we breathe it in, we know it in ways no winter’s refugee can replicate.

Those who remain year-round have found in the circle of the year a completeness that others have forsaken.

Yes, winter is not easy, and true, as age advances, it gets less and less bearable. Those who simply cannot stand it cannot be blamed for avoiding it if they can. And yet, those of us who cannot leave — and some of us who will not leave — should not be thought foolish or pitiful for remaining.

Soon the forsythia will decorate yards in brightest yellow, with other blooms to follow.

The mornings are replete with the calls of birds, and the sky will soon contain countless vees of geese and ducks, the points of their formations aimed in the direction of Polaris, guided by memories implanted in their genes.

And when that cycle comes to its true New Year, the end that contains its own beginning, those who bore the winter’s pains will take an extra measure of delight.

We are both a part of nature and apart from it, creatures capable of taking a mental step back in contemplation before we act where nature itself only acts according to its essence.

Thus, poets and philosophers have found in nature’s cycle of growth, death and resurrection a metaphor for the human condition. That is why it is no accident that today’s Good Friday is followed — precisely as spring follows winter — by Easter Sunday.

As with the seasons, the culmination of a series of events cannot be fully understood or appreciated without first enduring the necessary preparation. We learn from nature and from our inmost beings a truth:

The meadows that have been bare for oh, so long, so long, are due again to bloom.

 

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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