By Laura Parker Roerden
I hate spring. It feels freeing to admit that. When you live in a cold clime, there is too much social pressure to triumph spring’s return as if it were the 2nd coming of Jesus Himself, sliding in on a gaudy skateboard wearing a magnolia wreath and tossing chocolate coins to all the good children.
My mother died in the spring. The next day the forsythia along our garage exploded into riotous golden bloom. My father also died in the spring. The greening of the pasture that year heralded the beginning of a battle against weeds; there were no cows to graze it.
Then my brother died a few springs later, four days after the anniversary of our mother’s death. Huge flocks of geese landed that year in the hayfield destroying any chance of second-cut hay. My brother was not there to chase them away. That’s just as well.
By the time my nephew had repaired all of the haying equipment by himself it was nearly fall. He set out with his brother and a few friends and hayed the slanted field for the first time without his father as the light slid low on the horizon, which matched our moods at the time.
Today is the first day of spring. To mark it, I walked the river with a dear friend I’ve known since grade school. The blazing sun projected skeletal shadows from the trees on the white canvas of snow-cover and still partially frozen ice, giving everything an exaggerated architectural feel that nearly propped me up as we walk.
Busy chatting, we stop when we notice two wood peckers drilling holes for their nests in a call and response pattern that felt less like a territorial move and more like an attempt to erase loneliness. If not for the warmth of the sun, which lit the remaining dried grass peaking above the snow across the meadows as if it was on fire, there would be no sign that it was, in fact, now officially spring.
I’ve always assumed I hated spring because of the losses I have experienced during it. But today something different is afoot. I am comforted by the fire from above and the ice below, as if holding these two extremes is easier than swinging into a field of riotous blooms when your heart is still shattered. It’s not a flip of a switch, or turn on the earth’s axis, that allows us to get to spring, but the long march of winter itself.
It has taken me more than a half century to get it. You cannot have Easter without surrendering to the long march of death that is Lent. If you wait until Thursday, when Christ is betrayed, to prepare for Sunday, when He rises, you won’t get there in time. I know that for a fact. The razor’s edge between the dark and light can be skated, but only within the larger cavern created by tending our broken hearts.
A friend just posted that her mother has had an additional 16 years since today’s anniversary of a stem cell replacement that saved her life. I read this as I grapple with the 15-year anniversary of my mother’s loss of her own battle with cancer.
I do not shrug the coincidence of these two events off. I have at times been sanguine about those years without my mom; but I’ve also been jealous of the time my friends have had with their mothers that I have not. For today, I will settle into the gap and hold my friend’s celebration with joy while also holding my loss with pain and welcome the advent of spring in a field of snow.
Surrendering does not always mean we come up empty handed. Sometimes it means we simply hold two extremes.
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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.