As Winter Gives Way

We’ve had harbingers of spring for the past couple of weeks. The forsythia is in full bloom, the camellias are too. Daffodils have been popping up, some of them in unexpected places around our little homestead.

This year, I have to admit that the promise of spring feels profoundly different and not in a real good way. Yesterday as part of my sermon on the passage in Luke that charges us to love our enemies, I shared a hard and painful story about an incident of overt, aggressive racism I witnessed in the parking lot of a Publix store in Montgomery. It left me shaken to my core. Today, I was having lunch with a new member of the parish and his wife when my iWatch started buzzing repeatedly. It does that when I have a new text message or when a newsflash comes through from the newspapers I follow. I wondered if it meant that all hell had broken loose in Ukraine.

On Saturday evening, awash in new grief for my dad, I went out to walk through the pecan grove that delighted him. I kept a small handful of Dad’s ashes before we had his burial at the church; a month after he died, I scattered them in a corner of the land he had come to love, where he and Mouse had walked daily. Now, as the sun went down, I went to the place where I scattered those few precious bits of a life to say out loud, “Hola, papi” and just as I got there, a deliciously cute little bunny sprung out of the brush nearby and went hippity-hopping away from me.

We know we have a resident skunk, smelled him or her a couple of times too! More than once, I’ve watched deer graze under the pecan trees. More than once, I’ve also been pretty sure the coyotes we heard yipping, barking and howling were that close to our house. Squirrels and birds, and all kinds of other creatures share that space. In the midst of the sadness, I felt a jolt of wonder and gladness: Dad would be thrilled to know he has so many different friends to keep him company.

But the grim realities weigh heavy and unlike other years, the tentative few signs that spring will be here soon bring to mind Sara Teasdale’s poem. The poem’s structure, with one rhyme after another, feels quaint in the light of more contemporary poems. Nonetheless, the poem speaks a bleak and strangely beautiful truth, at least to me, on a rainy, grey day at the end of February in central Alabama.

There Will Come Soft Rains
(War Time)
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

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