By Sister Christine Parks
It’s not uncommon for me to contract a moderate to severe case of spring fever in February. Over the years when this has happened, I usually self-medicate with pots of daffodils and tulips, crocus and hyacinths—whose purchase I justify with the certainty that they’ll get planted in the garden to bloom again the next year, or the year after if they get lost or hide out in the garage. Then I sit back and wait, not always patiently, through most of March, for the vernal equinox to arrive; for spring to step across the equator, pushing winter ahead of her as she journeys north.
Somehow it also seems appropriate that a good part of this waiting happens during Lent, while the earth (at least at this latitude) remains frozen, and the days more dark than light; making the synchrony of the arrival of spring and the mystery of resurrection even more deeply meaningful. They both burst forth out of their separate tombs, into the light, bringing new life. After all, what in nature can seem more tomb-like than a dried out bulb or seed, planted in the dark earth. All that life pent up in what looks, from the outside, more dead than alive.
And now we come to April. Truly the month (in our northern hemisphere) of increasing daylight and warmth, regardless of the occasional freeze or snowfall. A month of greening, growth spurts and pastel blooming—and everything blooms, whether the blooms look like flowers, or not, as in the case of the amazing Symplocarpus foetidus, (i.e. the ‘lowly’ skunk cabbage seen below), which you will find in many boggy areas if you get out wood-walking early in the season.
April is also the month of Earth Day (April 22), when we celebrate our planet home. In recent years this celebration has become ever more poignant as we recognize the damage we have inflicted, continue to inflict, on this world. Earth Day is a special opportunity to commit, or re-commit, ourselves to act, advocate and connect with the global community; to take steps to protect, conserve and heal this lovely planet—the only one we have.
In the depths of February, I wrote the following love poem for my writing group. It feels appropriate to share as we move toward another Earth Day celebration, recognizing that we have a shrinking number of years to make significant changes in our living, working and being on and with earth. Yet we can choose now to turn away from the destructive path we are traveling, to one that respects and honors the gift of creation that surrounds us.
How do I love thee?
(After Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Let me tell the ways, uncounted, diverse
as the life you hold, forms you take—eagle
and egret, panther and porpoise, balsam
and birch, milkweed and monarch—now a
single snowflake falling amidst a blizzard
clothing the bare bones of autumn’s remains.
Now sunrise, dragging all the hues of
morning up the sky, then setting sun pulling
all the shades of evening beneath horizon
edge until only the vast universe comes
visible one light at a time. I love
you in all your peculiarity—gecko and
giraffe, aardvark and avocado, humus and
homo sapiens, all born from your womb.
By Christine Parks, CSJ
About the Author
Sister Christine Parks, CSJ, serves as a Spiritual Director, and occasional retreat and program presenter online and in Kalamazoo. She also works with the Congregation’s Protect & Heal Earth initiative and sustainability efforts. Leisure activities include gardening, long walks in nature, reading, writing and poetry.