Once upon a time at a retreat I helped facilitate for women with breast cancer the opening ice breaker activity was to declare one's favorite season. All the participants were arranged in a large circle, and the center of that circle was divided into four quadrants, one for each of the seasons. One by one the women stated their seasonal preference and stood in the appropriate space. Quickly, spring and summer filled to overflowing. Autumn had a fair number of enthusiasts, but winter? Not so much.
Along with a few, very few, other brave souls, I stood in the winter quadrant. I was not surprised there were so few of us standing like evergreen trees in our chosen square, for over the years I had heard all the reasons why winter should not be my favorite season. Isn't it interesting, I thought, that no one ever objects to someone who expresses emphatically that summer or spring is their favorite season. If fall is the favored season, sometimes there is an addendum about the problem with loving fall is that winter follows. Or then there is the cop-out about loving all the seasons, and, of course, there is much to appreciate in each season.
I have learned over the years to just nod passively when people express their distress over the long winter and not defend it or explain how I welcome the hibernation time, how my inner bear needs the cave. Sometimes when winter has been particularly extreme, intense and long, as it has been this year for many parts of the country, including here in Minnesota, I express my own yearning for spring, but I do so to be politically correct, to get along, to be one of the gang. Inside I know where my soul lives, and it is in winter.
I fell and broke my ankle on March 24, days after the spring equinox, and even if spring had arrived on schedule, meeting the desires of all those in the spring square, my personal spring would have been delayed as I was housebound for several weeks. I now am able to move more freely inside and outside and even have permission to drive. Spring is taking on more meaning for me this year.
I want to be clear that I have nothing against spring, not really, even when it comes too quickly or too early, according to my inner calendar. I, too, love opening my front door and sitting in the warming sunshine on our front stoop. I rejoice with the kids on their bikes, bare, pale legs pumping the pedals. I look forward to meeting neighbors whom I have only previously seen from our windows as they have dashed from car to house, not lingering in the cold. I love asparagus and strawberries and look forward to the first trip of the year to the farmers' market. And, of course, the buds of new life appearing magically everywhere, including the rhododendron at the side of our steps and the magnolia tree down the block and the startling yellows of forsythias peeking between yards are glorious examples of ongoing creation. I rejoice with those who identify their passion as gardening, for they have had to wait a long time to live their dreams. I, too, especially this year, appreciate the greater ease of moving around, knowing there is no more ice to change one's life.
Spring is a busy time. Just look around you. Everything is bursting, bubbling, pushing, surging, moving, chirping, quickening, awakening, growing. If you blink, you might miss the sudden appearance of green or yellow or pink. I have had a time of undoing, of moving slowly and deliberately, if at all. I have rested. I have been in recess and now it is time to discover if I have restored.
I suspect my spring will be a time to discover in what ways I have recuperated and in what ways the restrictions and retirement of these last weeks will result in revitalization and refreshment. I think even this winter-loving being is ready for spring.
Words of Wisdom
But the seasons, though regular, are unpredictable,
messy--they blur into one another, offering sunny skies
in January and frosts in May. We cannot hold them down
or contain them any more than we can contain our own
awareness of this bright, burgeoning world. Too soon
we snap back into self-consciousness, warily assessing
what we know and how we know it.
But spring's vitality, its headlong rush into new life,
its very innocence pulls us toward moments of pure
awareness, moments in which we see the glorious
particulars of this world--snakeskins and puppies and
adolescent boys and sunsets and cedar trees--all
illuminated by the light of eternity. Moments in which
as Dillard notes in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, it is 'less
like seeing than like being for the first time seen,
knocked breathless by a powerful glance.'
In spring, the sharp edges of the world scrape against
our heavy eyelids and our dulled hearts. Spring's beauty
pulls us up and out of ourselves toward praise and
wonder. Catch if if you can. (pp.126-127)
A Spiritual Biography of the Season
Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch, editors
Of course, the obvious question is what is your favorite season and why, but I invite you to go deeper. In what season does your soul reside? Now that spring truly seems to have arrived, what were the lessons of this past winter season? What is this new spring season asking of you. I would love to know.