Spring arrives early this year – tonight


For the first time in 124 years, spring arrives early. Usually the vernal equinox occurs on March 20 or 21, but this year, at 11:50 tonight, the sun’s rays will shine in the southern hemisphere precisely on the equator and it will become spring.

Spring arrangement
Daffodils, forsythia and pussy willows, the first blooms of spring, adorn a pottery vase.

This is also the first time in more than a century that the world is facing a pandemic and our lives have become upended. One of the best ways for me to deal with such uncertainty over events I can’t control is to engage in rituals. Rituals are comforting because they don’t require the brain to be in gear. The prescribed actions carry me through the emotions that are swirling around me.
So on Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, when it was gently raining, I found myself at Buchanan Home Center purchasing a package of sugar snap peas to honor the custom I’ve had for decades. Plant the tiny peas in soil on March 17 and in 56 days they’ll be ready to eat. They are a cool weather crop and can withstand the fickle weather of March.
Spring peas
As I was digging the soft soil of an outdoor deck container, creating a tiny nesting bed to slip the beige colored peas in,  I was reflecting on the soil. It was refreshing to be outside getting my hands dirty, savoring the air and listening to the chirping of birds, all signs in the natural world that life renews and offers continuity. Playing in the dirt, digging in the humus is a way for me to remember the common humanity that connects all of us on this earth.  I was reminded the Latin root of the word humility is humilitas, “from the earth.”
In the quiet solace of planting a garden as the world is swallowed up by the societal tsunami that is the corona virus, I had the image of a forest fire which destroys and ravages as it cleanses to the ground so that new growth can emerge. If we look at this current tumult from the perspective of a great cleansing, we have much to glean. Just as the corona virus causes difficulty breathing, our earth is also gasping for breath. This virus affecting humans is emblematic of what the earth is experiencing. We are being forced to slow down, quiet our lives and find new patterns of living. All of it is extremely humbling because we are not in control. What we resist, persists. This time of extreme unease is an opportunity to grow and transform  in ways that perhaps we’ve never had before. The poem I read earlier in the day stayed with me and offers a way forward.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar