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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 03/31/23 Ode to Spring

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ― Anne Bradstreet

Spring, 2023 has sprung, my 58th one! It is the time of year, at least at my latitude in which the world bursts into hues of green. I live in a place that has seasons. I have some really nice memories of some of the first Springs in my life, in the early 1970s. In my recollection, those were simple and slow-paced times even though a cursory review of history helps one to understand those years as quite turbulent. Yet as a child, for me it was a time of uncomplicated wonder.

One of the things I was fortunate to have in that era of my life was a sense of consistency. I felt safe. I am conscious that not every child has this experience in the first decade of life. I was fortunate to experience predictability in my early development, which is a key era of life to have such an experience. As I have noted in writings and interviews, because of economic and other types of upheaval I did not have it in later stages of development, but in those early Springs of my life, life seemed safe. Something less common in our era for children. Something to add to the gratitude list.

In those early 1970s Springs, I remember watching the flowers bloom and the grass sprout. Vegetation had overwintered in a drab brown transforms into a color of green that is not replicated at any other time of the year. The Northern Hemisphere takes a huge breath of CO2 and releases oxygen. I found this cool NASA Animation of the world breathing as seasons change over the entire globe. It is like the earth is alive. We should treat it as such. I was raised in an era in which we did not have NASA animations to experience how it breaths. You do not need to see it to understand it. Go outside and you can feel the difference in the quality of the air. We can appreciate the delicate balance that make this rock hurling through a cold universe livable. The air really is fresher in the Spring. As science and our senses tell us.

For peoples in long passed eras, food stores grown, harvested, and stored for winter were depleted by the Spring. Something hard for us to imagine in our age of plenty. I recently was looking up one of my favorite Philadelphia Restaurants, Le Virtu. It is named after a minestrone soup served in Teramo, Abruzzo only on May 1st. It consists of what remains after winter — dried legumes, cured salamis, whatever remains in the larder. The soup is meant to be eaten with family and shared with friends in celebration of surviving another cold season, a way to welcome spring. What a great tradition to celebrate getting through cold, dark days!

One recent spring that stands out in my memory was the Spring of 2020. Everything stopped. The world got quiet in a way that had never occurred before then. Julie and I live in the third largest city in PA, and like most people, our world got tiny in the Pandemic lockdown. Time in nature is a huge part of my self-care process, and in those early days, all I had was our small back yard, which I watched and experienced more intensely than any of the other years we have lived in our home. The birds were abundant, and the air smelled like the deep woods. Even the world’s largest cities were on standstill. The lockdown was traumatic, the pandemic devastating, but there was also beauty as the world unfolded in that Spring in ways many of us had not experienced at any other time in our lives. The silver lining of the cloud for sure.

The human brain can make some odd associations, (at least mine). Sometimes there are associations between things that may not seem to be entirely congruent. I have one in respect to Spring, it relates to the poem The Waste Land by TS Eliot, one of the lost generation writers. It is considered by many to be the most significant poem of the 20th century. Poetry is not a main focus for me, but I had to take a poetry class ages ago and this poem stuck with me.

Eliot’s poem, which is about brokenness and loss, its numerous allusions to the First World War suggest that the war played a significant part in bringing about social, psychological, and emotional collapse. The section I always think about at this time of the year are the lines: “April is the cruelest month, breeding.” It reminds me that while it is a time of rebirth, for those mired in loss, it can be these times of year that are the hardest to bear. A reminder to me how events can feel very different to people depending on their experience. I never anticipated in taking a poetry class I would gain insight into this fundamental truth. Grateful for the happy accident that taking that class ended up being for me.

So here we are, Spring is here. We all have made it to the growth spirt of 2023. The world is popping in color and the season of growth is upon us. One of the things I hope to do this year is to take one of the lessons I learned during the pandemic and apply it more fully to my days. Time out in the world and with people you care about is to be cherished. I am grateful for the opportunity to really take this one in, I never thought I had so many Springs in the cards of life. Grateful for this one that is here now!

What are you grateful for today?

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