in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
— e.e. cummings from Selected Poems
Sleeping In The Forest
I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
— Mary Oliver from Devotions
Spring is Mud and Miracle
I’ll wax romantic about the splendors of spring in a moment, but first there’s a hard truth to be told. Before spring becomes beautiful, it’s plug-ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I’ve walked through early spring fields that will suck the boots off your feet, a world so wet and woeful you yearn for the return of snow and ice.
Of course, there’s a miracle inside that muddy mess: those fields are a seedbed for rebirth. I love the fact that the word humus, the decayed organic matter that feeds the roots of plants, comes from the same word-root that gives rise to humility. It’s an etymology in which I find forgiveness, blessing, and grace. It reminds me that the humiliating events of life — events that leave “mud on my face” or “make my name mud” — can create the fertile soil that nourishes new growth.
Spring begins tentatively, but it advances with a tenacity that never fails to touch me. The smallest and most tender shoots insist on having their way, pressing up through ground that looked, only a few weeks earlier, as if it would never grow anything again. The crocuses and snowdrops don’t bloom for long. But their mere appearance, however brief, is always a harbinger of hope — and from those small beginnings, hope grows at a geometric rate. The days get longer, the winds get warmer, and the world grows green again.
As my personal winters turn slowly toward spring, I find it hard enough to keep slogging through “the mud within.” I find it even harder to credit the small harbingers of new life to come, hard to be hopeful until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more closely within myself and trust the green tendrils of possibility …
Spring is potlatch time in the natural world, a bounty of blooming beyond all necessity and reason — animated, it would appear, by nothing other than the sheer joy of it. The gift of life, which winter threatened to withdraw, is granted once again, with compound interest. Rather than hoarding life, nature gives it all away. There’s a paradox here, one known in all the world’s wisdom traditions: when you receive a gift, the only way to keep it alive is to pass it along …
From autumn’s profligate seeding to the great spring give-away, nature teaches a steady lesson. If we want to save our lives, we must spend them with abandon. When we’re obsessed with bottom lines and productivity, with efficiency of time and motion, with the rational relation of means and ends, with projecting reasonable goals and making a beeline toward them, it’s unlikely we will ever know the fullness of spring in our own lives.
By the way, where did we get that “beeline” thing? Just watch the bees in the spring — they flit all over the place, flirting with both the flowers and their fates. Yes, the bees are productive. But no science can persuade me that they are not dancing for the joy of it.
— Parker J. Palmer from Let Your Life Speak
Ode to Dirt
Dear dirt, I am sorry I slighted you,
I thought that you were only the background
for the leading characters—the plants
and animals and human animals.
It’s as if I had loved only the stars
and not the sky which gave them space
in which to shine. Subtle, various,
sensitive, you are the skin of our terrain,
you’re our democracy. When I understood
I had never honored you as a living
equal, I was ashamed of myself,
as if I had not recognized
a character who looked so different from me,
but now I can see us all, made of the
same basic materials—
cousins of that first exploding from nothing—
in our intricate equation together. O dirt,
help us find ways to serve your life,
you who have brought us forth, and fed us,
and who at the end will take us in
and rotate with us, and wobble, and orbit.
— Sharon Olds from Odes
For flowers that bloom about our feet,
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet,
For song of bird, and hum of bee,
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
For blue of stream and blue of sky,
For pleasant shade of branches high,
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
— Ralph Waldo Emerson from Prayers for Children
- The Courage of the Seed
- The Task of Spring
- Blessing That Holds a Nest in Its Branches
- Awakening The Heart From Its Ancient Sleep
- Another Spring
- The Song Of The Lark
- May You Allow The Wild Beauty Of The Invisible World To Embrace You
- Springtime Prayer