“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
“And the Spring arose on the garden fair, Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere; And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Complete Poems
Whenever I feel the uncertainty of a moment, a lingering fear of the unknown or sense of urgency, I go to nature and feel the strength of the earth under my footsteps. The trees bestow their gracious welcome as the sounds of the forest fill my soul with a peaceful silence. The sky, the wind, the sun and clouds remind me that I belong to this world. I am home.
As a global community, we are learning to reinvent our lives. The road turned and we have come upon an unexpected detour. The path may be unclear, but we are together. And that gives me great comfort. Join me on my nature walk and consider the words of the poet, Mary Oliver.
“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” Mary Oliver
Tonight, as I look out into my city that is embracing the night, I feel a sense of solidarity that comes from the lights that shine in the darkness. In a time of uncertainty, we continue to meet challenges together, as a community.
In the darkness, there is light.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote that “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
Mary Jo has graciously allowed me to recite her poem, “Sleight.” As I read her words, I feel that I am there in the woods with her, walking by the edge of the lake. It is a marvelous song of winter and spring negotiating the terms of transition. Her last lines conjure up profound memories of seasons that have come before.
I invite you to read along with me as we walk with Mary Jo Malo
Spring can be so winter encumbered I learn to walk again layered in a long-sleeved tee and hoodie sweatshirt and bulky jacket and thermals and jeans But the sun is hot and will no doubt spot and freckle my hands and face The old woman I never saw myself becoming
Far into the woods tracing my familiar path around the little lake worried frogs launch from their spawning shore stir up muck and lurk undercover Minnows dart beneath woolly floating leaves survivors of last Autumn then frenzy back into clear warm water when I pass They pull up short out in the deep cold murky center of the pond where bigger fish await to feed off their mistaken direction
A giant carp slowly trolls the shallow water surrounding the island roiling up mud and purling water along its shiny back Game fish lie in wait and jump to snap up bugs I rarely see them hit but hear the splash and watch concentric circles left behind calmly disappear
I nearly submerge a memory one you often asked me to remember that pale yellow sundress with little blue roses and twenty tiny buttons down the front You plucked a wild violet from behind my ear as if you could keep me fooled
“Between our two lives there is also the life of the cherry blossom.”
The cherry blossoms grace our lane ways and gardens, welcoming April, the month that was, in ancient Rome, sacred to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. April is the month that gave us Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and, more recently, Wangari Maathai, Maya Angelou and Ella Fitzgerald. There is a warmth in the chill of an April evening, perfect for the beginning of journeys as immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales.
“What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.”
For me, April has always been about cherry blossoms. Vancouver is renowned for our approximately 50,000 cherry trees, which flower in varying shades of pink and white. Every year, we hold a Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.
“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.”
The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower that has given birth to hanami, a century-old custom that is said to have its origins in the Nara period (710-794) which simply means flower viewing. Families and friends gather under the canopy of flowering cherry trees to share a meal and gaze up at the delicate white and pink against a pristine sky of blue. Nighttime brings out the paper lanterns that people carefully place in the trees to add a spectacular illumination, which highlights the profound idea of the ephemeral nature of life. The blossoms come for a moment to bestow a graceful elegance, covering pathways with petals, then, slipping away with the silent promise to return the next year.
So, my dear friends, I invite you to join me under the canopy of a Vancouver cherry tree.
Spring has come. The daffodils announced the arrival of a new season, which was underscored by the rainy days that followed. In the Northern Hemisphere, the world has stirred as if from a deep sleep and is welcoming a warmer sun. Even as I embrace the energy of rebirth, I cannot help but recall the comfort of hearth and home where tea and a fine book filled the long winter nights. Winter is a time of respite and contemplation that accompanies an inner journey.
In the midst of the new growth, the remnants of winter remain as a reminder to seize the moment, for winter will come again.
“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”
“Seize the day, and put the least possible trust in tomorrow.”