The messiness of spring hits me as I survey the aftermath of winter death. It also offers insight, filling me with longing for the Resurrection.
My soul longs for the magic of the resurrection, but I am faced with the mystery and messiness of spring, of the birth process, instead.
The photo above displays a distylium myricoides, a seldom-used but quite lovely shrub that graces my front yard. Normally, yet green leaves should be slowly falling off, gently pushed out by the bright red of the early spring growth.
Those colorful shoots were just emerging when the Great Texas Freeze descended upon us, bringing the kind of cold that has not been seen here before, taking us down to zero degrees one morning as part of a nearly week-long deep freeze.
I have no idea if the plant will make it. If it does, it will be a messy rebirth, accompanied by likely disfigurement of the currently graceful branches.
But that’s what happens with the spring/birth/rebirth process. It’s just messy and it affects everything around it.
Any woman who has birthed a baby will admit to this messy process that left nothing unchanged. Anyone who has parented a child knows well that growth does not happen without messes, without some hopes and plans dying, others springing to life.
That’s the nature of life and growth.
For new life, we must have death.
Each spring, I find myself forcibly reminded of the necessity of death for life. Although unusually bad this year, the end of winter always means dead plants, piles of decaying matter that shelters various forms of insect life, fodder for the birds who leave the [messy] evidence of their visits everywhere.
I can, by virtue of considerable hard labor, make this “beautiful,” i.e., neat and clean and orderly. However, if I move too fast, I short circuit the process and deny part of the work of the birth process.
And so, each spring, as I spend endless slow hours on my knees in my yard and flowerbeds, I ponder again the whole notion of Easter, of resurrection, of life after death, of hope after despair.
Many religions have life-after-death stories: the idea is not unique to Christianity. And having those stories make so much sense in worlds where one’s very survival is 100% dependent upon the hope and messiness of new birth of plant and animal life that follows the dark and death of winter.
Today, however, most of us, especially in “first world” countries, live far removed from primary food sources.
While many do garden for the simple joy of it and are able to grow some portion of their fresh food, few expect those labors to fully feed them. We buy our groceries, the food having been produced by giant farms and ranches, harvested, preserved, and shipped often thousands of miles to our refrigerators and stoves.
We are doomed without the messiness of spring.
But without the messiness of spring, without the resurrection of new life, we are all doomed. Without this complicated, often painful and confusing process of the dead being pushed aside by the living, we have no future.
And yet, even with new hope and new life, spring/new birth/resurrection is actually a radically unsafe time. Again, for us to have a resurrection, something must die. Without death, there will be no life. And much of that life will simply not survive.
The insects and their larvae become bird feed; the eggs from the fed birds become food for other species, who then also become food for even more. All the dead plant material, properly composted, becomes food for the next round of plants many of which then die because the insects eat them.
The truth? New life is simply dangerous. Only death is safe.
A few weeks ago, I was digging out things I had written, and buried, years and years ago. As I resurrected them, I found this:
I nurtured you in liquid darkness, safe, warm, protected
I expelled you to harsh light
hard, cold, demanding
Safety brings death
I picked life for you.
Spring, resurrection, new life, new birth–we either embrace the messiness of it, enter into the light of it and all it exposes, or we die.
On April 4, of this year of 2021, Christians around the world will celebrate the Resurrection, the new life–unless you are celebrating in the Orthodox tradition, and wait until May 2 of this year.
See, even dating Easter is a messy source of disagreement. That’s the very nature of life. It’s a battle. It’s hard. It hurts. It ends in death. And then . . . new life will spring forth again in all its messy hope that this time, we will get it right.
Photo Credit: ©Christy Thomas, March 2021, All Rights Reserved