Spring is a Time of Hope. This Year, We’re Muddling Through the Muck.
March 19, 2022
My friend and I sat down to a solemn dinner March 15 and raised our glasses to what we’ve come to jokingly call the anniversary of her death. Two years ago, on this date Mikaela underwent a life altering event, a mini cataclysm. “Mini,” because the impact of this particular event did not extend beyond her personal life, but any comparison to its smallness stops there. For Mikaela, there is her life before and her life after March 15, 2020, and the two are distinct.
As we clinked our glasses, we also reflected on the bizarre convergence between her personal life’s story with the historical moment we are living within. I too experienced my own mini cataclysm on March 15, 2020. On March 14, I stayed late at my bartending job to update our chalk boards with Saint Patrick’s Day cocktail specials. The next day, in response to rapidly rising cases of Covid-19, the Governor ordered all Illinois bars and restaurants to shut down. Two weeks later I left my job. Just like Mikaela, for me and many others, there is life before and life after March 15.
Spring Equinox fell on March 19 in 2020. I recall convening a small group of friends that week on Zoom to pray. As the sun passed into the Northern hemisphere, our little virtual community clung to fragile hope for a healthy world by honoring Spring’s gift of new life. Thinking back on that Zoom service, I can still feel the uncertainty that hung heavily over the gathering. We really had no idea what was to come. Of course, the pandemic wore on, one month tumbled into two, Spring gave way to Summer, then Fall, then Winter, and mini cataclysms continued to multiply.
I didn’t celebrate Equinox last year. In Minnesota, where I grew up, the transition from Winter to Spring is welcomed with widespread exuberance. In years past, my interpretation of Spring Equinox message of rebirth has narrowly mirrored Minnesotan Spring-time jubilance; shallowly focusing on Spring’s triumph over Winter. Such a joyous tone felt hollow come Spring 2021. My heart was too weary, so I let the sun travel across the equator without acknowledgment.
It’s perhaps unsurprising my relationship to Spring Equinox has now changed. This year, I’ve noticed Spring is a natural time to take inventory. Every year the snow melts to reveal a familiar yet transformed landscape. Some plants return and bloom, while others don’t. Toys lost in the snow reappear on lawns. Pathways closed for Winter reopen with new cracks and holes. Spring reminds me to scan my environment and give thanks for what survived the Winter, as well as notice any changes and grieve losses.
This year, pausing to take stock is challenging. As I anticipate Equinox, I find myself in another “life after.” While I inventory my life and the lives of my loved ones I’m struck by how changed and foreign each of our Spring-time landscapes are. I feel lost in this after. And somehow, Spring has returned for another year to extend the invitation to start again. The ground is thawing, and Spring is ushering me toward a time for planting; a time to imagine the future, select seeds, place them in the ground, and hope they will grow.
The audacity. I find the seasonal invitation to collect the lessons of the year and use them to dream new life a bit laughable, really. Yet, I’m finding there is space in Spring’s invitation to rebirth for my pain and confusion. Spring’s rhythms remind me that the process of rebirth isn’t tidy. The journey from Winter to Summer is a mucky mix of unpredictable weather, flooded roads and baseball diamonds, and mud caked shoes. So maybe the invitation to new life doesn’t need to be met with jubilance. Maybe new life can begin with grief too. Perhaps, Spring’s mucky moody spirit has space for the tumult of my own, and I can still plant seeds, even as I reel from the pain of Winter’s losses.
I’m a little disbelieving that I’ve already arrived at another Equinox. That said, I’m also thankful for the unstoppable passage of time. I realize now that no matter what threshold between grief and joy I find myself muddling through, the sun will travel North across the equator and Spring will extend its hand with a free invitation to begin again. And that invitation will be extended again. And again. And again, without reservations. I am filled with hope by the promise that Spring returns every year to remind me of life’s transformation. This Equinox I intend to plant my hope, messy and mucky as it may be, and see what grows.
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