The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring, writes Bern Williams. The woe of winter becomes the prayer of spring. After months of cold and damp, melancholy skies and short grey days, buds burst into flower. The snowdrop raises its gentle head and blossoms decorate trees. Daubs of wattle, like swags of saffron silk, brighten dour suburban streets. The sun begins to warm our backs and birds break into a chorused chortling, the sombre notes of winter being replaced by chirrups and canticles. A gentle greening of the earth takes place, a soft and verdant shimmer. It is a glad awakening.
Winter is in retreat. The odd day is coloured by her last gasp of wind and her fitful rainy rantings. Somehow spring has taken hold, imperceptibly, immutably, establishing the order of the new. It is the season of rebirth and resurrection; the season of the bubbling, surging tide of sap, as D H Lawrence observed. It is the season of hatching and sprouting and emerging, a faithful fecundity that has not yet been despoiled by human intervention. Still, we need to be vigilant if we want this most hopeful of seasons to retain its primordial constancy in the unfolding human story.
In parks, parents push toddlers on swings, dogs fetch balls, games of cricket are played. A rash of hoardings advertising spring fetes sprouts along main roads. The Mr Whippy van trundles around crescents and cul de sacs, its tinny tinkling an invitation to the casual joys of life not so buttoned up or battened down. The churlish chill is thawing out and smiles begin to replace the frozen smirk of winter.
The colours of spring delight. They are the greens of mint and moss, of pine and fern and clover, the gentle hues of God’s giant garden. They are the soft pastels that hint at the full-blown and full-bodied. They are the glimpses of what is to come. Spring is the gentle enchantress that leads us to the smorgasbord of summer. Pale pink blossoms whisper of long, silky afternoons; perky pansies, little floral paint pots, decorate verandahs. The quiet of the deserted schoolyard is replaced by the joyful vocalese of children laughing.
Spring is a time of rebirth, regeneration, the slow ripening. Nature triumphantly awakens, its fertility the miracle of Mother Earth. Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of caring for our common home, this tiny blue marble that swirls in the indigo ink of the expanding universe. In Laudato si’ we are reminded of the importance of ecological conversion—that awareness of our responsibility to those who come after us. In a speech in Manila, Philippines, in January 2015 the pontiff said, ‘As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.’ As spring approaches let us be reminded of that calling to care for our planet, Earth, home to us in the scintillating starry soup of space.
And, we spring clean our hearts. The hard, hibernating heart of winter thaws to become the hopeful heart of the spring season of starting over. It is the season of new growth, of life reviewed and renewed, the chance for us to start with a clean slate, to put the winter days away. Perhaps in this season of the new we can allow our hearts to frolic—to find delights and diversions that enlarge and embolden us, to move on from hearts that might have become stale and stuffy with old ideas and predictable patterns. Our true hearts are warmed up again as the days lengthen.
The theologian Thomas Merton believed that human beings must experience all the times and moods of one good place. For me, it is the here and now in our antipodean spring in a Melbourne full of festivals and carnivals and the joy of shaking off the cold encumbrance of winter.
Spring is in my step and my heart is gladdened by the hum of nature going about its business—the ladybird skittering; daffodils nodding breezily; ladies in lavender sitting at a pavement café sharing their crossword clues under the bright blue swatch of sky; schoolgirls hitching up their dresses as they wait hopefully at tram stops for young love to notice them; the poetry of the blossom tree in the jungle of the suburban back garden; the days stretching into pearly nights under the southern stars.
Spring is a giant prayer, the only prayer, of nature alive and renewed in the miraculous rhythm of life. It is, says Frank Robson, God thinking in gold, laughing in blue and speaking in green.
Ann Rennie is a Melbourne-based writer and teacher.