Day of Promise

On this day of promise,
The grass green and the buds
Straining into leaves on shrubs and trees,
And the birds singing, joyfully, in the dawn.
Everywhere life, life bursting through all fetters,
And the heart singing
Shouting its defiance of clouds and cold.
This is a day that aches with the promise of life,
Life which will not be denied.
Let all hearts swell with glad acceptance,
Joyful with the sense of the always becoming,
For out of earth, into the air and sunshine, out of ourselves,
There rises the Spirit of Life,
Neither dark nor threat shall thrust it down.
It is a spirit that rises irresistibly in us.
This is the season’s gift.

–Robert T. Weston, adapted

Nature and the universe are always miraculous, but there is something about living in a northern climate and experiencing the awakening of life in its multitude of forms that makes us pay attention. And, being naturally oriented toward ourselves as individuals and as a species, it’s not difficult to draw parallels between what is happening in nature and what happens inside us. As in Robert T. Weston’s reading, just as the birds sing and the buds swell, so may our hearts sing and swell with the coming of spring.

And as Mark Nepo has written of Nature, “we are quietly given countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which ultimately is an awakening beyond all imagining.” This movement from the metaphorical dormant bud to the open blossom, he suggests, is the “threshold to God.” Similarly, Robert T. Weston writes that out of the earth and out of ourselves “rises the Spirit of Life.”

But how, exactly, in this season, are we to move from the darkness of dormancy to the sunshine? In my own experience, I have found that it doesn’t always happen spontaneously. It doesn’t necessarily happen simply by observing or listening to or even breathing in the signs of Nature’s awakening. I can’t think myself into a feeling of glad acceptance or joy. I can’t think my way over the threshold to God, or to the rising of the Spirit of Life within myself.

I am writing this on a cloudy day in Pennsylvania, a state that is infamous for the number days per year that its land is overarched by cloud cover. I am bothered that my mood often seems to be dependent on the weather, although I am convinced that there is more to it than a simple psychosomatic response, as some suggest. But these cloudy days also provide time for introspection and potentially, new insights.

What came to me today is that the pathway to an experience of the awesomeness of Nature comes not just from drinking in the multitude of growth and change all around us through our normal sensory awareness. Rather, it comes from feeling its energy. By what mechanism we can feel this energy I can’t say. We do know that just because we can’t measure something, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

When we open ourselves to sensing the actual energy of cells dividing, buds popping, petals opening, hormones flowing, so much movement and energy being created and expended –that’s when we can really feel it and allow our consciousness – our minds and our hearts and our spirits – to identify and merge with that energy. That’s when we may experience the irresistible rising of our spirits, a sense of oneness with all that is living, the threshold to God.

These thoughts remind me of a particular spring morning when I was nine or ten years old. I not only felt the energy – I literally saw it. I was standing out in the front yard, just about this time of year. The sun bright and warm on my skin, hundreds of tiny red maple flowers above me, daffodils and forsythia shining brightly yellow in front of me, green grass under my feet. Multitudes of birds were singing, and insects buzzed around. I became mesmerized, and my eyes began to perceive the energy, sparkling brightly and vibrating throughout the air. I simply stood there, not moving, for a long time, until at last, the vision faded.

Many years later, I learned that this was an experience of panentheism, of the immanence of the sacred. I am not normally given to visions. But I carry that memory and that is how I know that the energy of Nature is a very real thing. And while we may not often see it, we may feel it if we pause long enough.

Dwelling in the mystery and miracle of Nature, we celebrate life and its inherent perfection. As we do so we can also celebrate ourselves, who we are in this very moment, which is always perfect. In this moment, we don’t have to do or be anything or anyone else. In this moment, we are perfect, just as we are. And then, the Spirit of Life may rise within us. This, as Robert Weston, reminds us, is the gift of the season.