The morning wake up alarm goes off far earlier than our normal routine. We don’t hit snooze once. James and I pull on clothes in the dark, catch a bus, walk into an urban forest. We listen. The morning chorus of birds fills the air with their normal routines. Trills, drumming, flight calls. Some of their spring courtship arias are still finding their tune, with odd bumps and false starts.
We notice. Salmon berries are setting blossoms. Not yet unfurled, they are little red origami envelopes. A few winter ducks are still around, including a hooded merganser pair, swimming mating circles. “Which trail should we take next?” I ask James. I want him to enjoy this walk. “It doesn’t matter, ” he says, “I’m following you.”
I’d set this date in our calendar weeks ago. An Observance, Officially Taking Note of Spring. If you saw my earlier blog on Spring Equinox and Persian New Year, you know I’ve been steeping myself in the symbology of Spring. James doesn’t go for symbology. He looks at the thing itself.
“It’s useful to mark time’s passage,” he says, “to walk out and notice what’s changing.” He has no need to tie these seasonal changes to any mythic story. “The astronomy that makes equinox occur on earth is awesome enough. Who needs more story than that?”
In my terminology, it is indeed “miraculous” that Earth has just enough tilt to create the seasons, just enough flux to create a cycle of heat and chill that stimulates life across the globe. Isn’t that the basis of so many season celebrations? The ancients noticed the sun’s changes and shared stories to accompany those changes, like the birds whose songs vary to match the season. Whether or not you think of those stories as literal, there is a meaning — and even delight — in their cycle of recurrence.
In my love of spiritual observances, I can easily go beyond noticing the cycles and begin attempting to manufacture them. Have I squeezed every ounce of renewal out of Spring? Have I cleaned and fasted and reflected and done a ritual and sung a song and made that asparagus dish and placed daffodils throughout the house AND HAD AN AUTHENTIC BY-GOD SPIRITUAL RENEWAL? if not, well, clearly I’m not really in the spirit of the season. Maybe I should read a book on the topic by the hot new theologian and try again.
That’s not surrender to the God of my heart. That’s being a control freak.
James and I walk out of the park, holding hands. We stop. In the tree before us, a full-grown eagle rests. So huge and heavy, it bends the branch. Two crows perch on either side, quiet for once, instead of ragging on the big raptor. A construction worker leans against a truck watching them too. He’s about to start work on some reconstruction project at the park. “Nice place to work,” I call out. What a view out the office window.
“Yeah,” he replies, “it sure is. I watch ’em all day long.”
That morning I didn’t remember to wear my new shirt, to follow Persian New Year practice. Instead, I happened to wander onto James’ path of simply marking the moment of Spring. Nice place to begin work.