April 23, 2017 — Jennifer Comeau
Remember a few months ago when I asked for a show of hands, “who loves winter?” Today I’ll ask for a show of hands, “Who hates spring?” (None of us do!)
During spring, we experience a quickening, an easing, a lightening. Simply put: we experience expansion. Suddenly, after months where everything felt dark, and hard, and slow – bundling up, shoveling off, withdrawing from – it’s spring, and anything, anything at all seems possible.
Clarence Bunson, a fictional character in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, was heard saying to Evan Tolerude at the Chatterbox Café one rainy April morning: “Easter is the season of hope given all evidence to the contrary.” The Lake Wobegon Effect as academic David G. Myers describes it is, “the natural human tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities.” (As I was writing this sermon, I began to wonder if I was suffering from The Lake Wobegon Effect.) In truth, the season of spring seems chalk full of The Lake Wobegon Effect, does it not?
It’s no accident that the coiled piece of alloy metal known as a spring was named after this season of rebound, the season that follows the compression of winter. Myriam Webster defines it as, “a resilient device that can be pressed or pulled, but returns to its former shape when released.” Resilience, elasticity, bounce; these words are concepts, but we experience them in the ever-lightening hours of spring when we hear jubilant bird-song, lawn mowers restarted, and peepers asserting their reemergence in vernal ponds. In Mary Bradley’s poem, exquisitely read by Polly, God’s gracious works — these sights and sounds – are available to ears that (His message) seek…to the eyes that see, and from winds that speak.
We can all experience spring’s enormous drive for life, and this, is my first of three Lessons from Spring. Lesson Number One: Move through life with unbridled exuberance. Exuberance – the state of vitality and overflowing joyfulness. The birds, I notice, have plenty of that. They’ve gone a little mad. Yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, robins flew – heedless and low – right across Beachwood Avenue at the height of my car’s grill. “Stop it!” I yelled, heart in my throat, as one after another narrowly missed my car.
I suppose in spring we all go a little mad. According to New York State Department of Transportation data on the number of speeding tickets per month (2012 – 2014) http://www.newyorkspeedingfines.com/police-write-less-speeding-tickets-winter/, there’s a big leap in speeding tickets in March and April, after year-long lows in December, January, and February. They decline again in May and June. Are cops more willing to leave their cozy cars at this time, or are we more eager to press our gas pedals? Now I’m not suggesting you all to go out and get speeding tickets, but for myself I wonder: What must I stop doing, or start doing, or do differently in my life so that it resounds with unbridled exuberance?
Chris Humphrey sang the poignant words of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein: “I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string, and I’m as giggy as a baby on a swing,” so it might as well be spring. Folks, spring is Tigger’s season.
We have no patience for Eeyore. In fact, we have no patience at all. We want to get going; to start things! And this brings me to Lesson Number Two: There’s no time like now to begin anew. There’s something about spring that helps us see with new-eyes the tired or cluttered spaces we’ve become accustomed to. No longer acceptable, I find myself rolling up my sleeves to de-junk, my hands itch for the feel of a paintbrush, my eyes long for the satisfaction of a fresh space, just as my nose twitches from the sweet air that wafts in from opened windows.
I cannot help but think of my father at this time. He’d emerge from the basement like a seed that rouses from its dormant slumber. His winter pastime of model railroading – a huge layout that took up the entire basement – began to lose its potency. Instead, he’d retrieve his last year’s baseball-team roster, and pour over the players’ statistics. Year after year as ball diamonds greened-up, he’d plan a new line up; recruit new boys, and develop a new list of signals for them to study – the sign to steal, to sacrifice bunt, or to hit-and-run. “Mr. E,” as he was known, was famous for his white van, which he drove around town to pick up countless boys for practices and games who would otherwise not be able to participate. Everyone wanted to play for Mr. E. We were the only house on the block with a home plate sunken into the backyard grass so that my brother could practice his pitching. Each April and May simmered with exciting possibilities – maybe we’d win our division, our league, the state, or even regionals. With my father’s devotion, win we did. I still cannot hear the crack of a bat (like at opening day at Fenway), without thinking of Dad.
Also at this time, like many of you, I wander outside dreaming of luscious flower gardens, the taste of crunchy, sun-warmed peas or juicy tomatoes in my mouth. Spring is the time for devotion – devotion to mother earth. Yesterday was Earth Day. In spite of the chilly dampness, I suspect some here were out ridding our shores and roadsides of human debris to show your care for our planet. Thank you.
Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Thoreau wanted to suck out all the marrow of life. As this morning’s sun rose, I wondered, “Am I living deliberately? Am I learning what nature has to teach?” Thoreau knew that somewhere, even beyond Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s Hundred Acre Wood, there exists an essence — found only in nature. It’s called, Aliveness! You can feel it in a heart-hammering hike up Mount AGAMENTICUS (or for Nancy, even loftier peaks!), you can feel it when coming nose to nose with a dolphin as Carol Sherman and Peter McPheeters once did, you can feel it as you gaze, transfixed by powerful ocean waves crashing into the rocks off East Point.
Spring’s invitation is to get out there and get going. Come to terms with our limitations if we must, but then rededicate ourselves to experiencing the essential nature of Nature. And Burt Shavitz, the original founder of Burt’s bees reminds us, “Nature doesn’t wait for you, so that you can see what she’s doing….Further he says, “to have the opportunity to see the seasons is part of the joy of life.” And at no other time does this resonate as viscerally as it does in spring.
Sometimes this season is not exuberant. Sometimes spring is not a beginning. This was the case when John’s brother, Richard, died tragically at only 45 years of age. In the frigid month of February, 1999, Richard Comeau was shot and killed. As John and his family reeled from an unthinkable loss, I, a relative newcomer to the family, prepared for the inevitable: Our June wedding date would be postponed. But John’s mother, Stella, said something that has remained with me to this day: “Keep the date. Fill our hearts with something beyond sadness.” She seemed to have faith in spring. She seemed to believe that spring would be a threshold between the pain of loss, the darkness of grief, and an eventual willingness to get on with living. I think of Job 14:7, “There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender shoots thereof will not cease.”
This brings me to lesson three, a reminder. This season, whether beautiful or tragic, bountiful or scant, is but one brief moment, even as the Wheel of Life is already turning. During the joyous period of the Resurrection, we are reminded that Jesus is a wellspring; a source of infinite love and healing; a fountain-head to return to again and again. Like this water I brought back from Ireland, which burbled up from the ancient site of Saint Brigid’s well, Jesus offers us the miraculous invitation to move through life with unbridled exuberance, to begin anew, and to cherish each precious season of our lives.
Spring is not just a season; it is a state of mind. One we can adopt at any time. The song, You Must Believe In Spring offers us a meaningful metaphor.
… In a world of snow
Of things that come and go
Where what you think you know
You can’t be certain of
You must believe in Spring; and in love.
Jennifer Comeau is a writer, songwriter, motivational speaker, and ally of the earth. Jennifer’s mission is inspiration. Inspiration is the fuel that propels creativity and change, and Jennifer’s is rocket-worthy, with contrails of crystalline fairy dust. Jennifer takes a stand for wild places and spaces, including those within each of us, for we too, are nature. Her invitation: Fall in love again with creation; find the overgrown and forgotten pathway to your own wildly creative heart. For more: www.jennifercomeau.com.