I’m not sure precisely why our calendar falls the way it does. I imagine it has to do with the length of days, but whatever the reason, I like that we experience New Year’s in the middle of winter and that Spring comes well into our failed resolutions.
The natural sermon of life and death and resurrection are evident in every season, crescendo over every year. It’s unavoidable. Spring is birth, Summer: life, Autumn: dying, Winter: death. We spend chilling months mourning the luscious days we played in gardens and bathing suits. We don sweaters like monks in pious posture, chanting with our pumpkin spice clutched in prayer as we take somber steps into December. We endure every day after Christmas and beckon the first buds come quick.
So here we are again in Spring. It’s lovely. Flowers and sunshine and chirping birds are sweet. I enjoy all the new life and three of my babies were born into these warm months of long light and fresh grass.
But I’ve given birth near the other solstice, too.
Winter is death, sure, and with death there is quiet. Darkness allows undivided attention. No bright colors to admire, no baby squirrels to gush over, less sun to cleanse. In the darkest months, when so much around us has died, we are invited to a funeral feast. Trees close up their buds and the ground takes back what it offered us in June and we are hungry. So hungry we attend and sit at the table where our sustenance depends upon our willingness to indulge in what’s left of summer’s fruit, then burn our lips on salted meat and squint our eyes at bitter herbs. We are invited, should we be so kind or desperate, to mourn all the losses, but we will not do it on an empty stomach.
The griefs are obvious. We miss the sun. We miss the flowers. We miss the way the earth called us out to play and we are slightly afraid she will be too grown up for us next year. We long for things which have passed, will pass, are passing.
But as we sit at the table, our minds wander from the little griefs to all the services we’ve attended before. The dreams we buried, the futures we saw embalmed in caskets, the plans, the homes, the people we want back, the Big Griefs. Yes, this is why we’re here. Our host nods to the servers to take our plates and bring the next course. More salt, more herbs, more remembering.
And with our invitation comes a gift basket. Shorter days because we are tired after all the extra hours of light and because squaring up loss is exhausting. Cloudy veils because the sun stings teary eyes wide to grief. A heavy blanket to cover and hold the earth tight – us within it – as it finds out if there are any more tomorrows hiding underneath.
If we are willing to, we can get cozy in it. If we can stop fidgeting in the discomfort of the dark we will find that there are lights you can only see when you’ve shut out the sun.We may even enjoy it and what a delicious sin that would be.
Spring comes in like an impatient mother and flings the blanket in the air to rouse us from what appears to be sleep. She is merciless. She uncovers. And what became of the dormancy sprouts. We find dog shit in beds of tulips and we’re unfazed. We knew both would be here.
We greet it all with full stomachs as we’re called from the table to play.