, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 4, 2013

Devoted to the spring faith

Perhaps, like me, you are a devotee of the spring faith.

Unlike so many of the other things into which I have put my faith, spring has never failed me yet. It is even more predictable than baseball. The swallows, so I am told, have returned to Capistrano. The inevitable green is starting to show. After months of half-life, months when I have wondered as the poet Christina Rossetti did, “if sap is stirring yet, if wintery birds are dreaming of a mate, if frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun, and crocus fires are kindling one by one,” I have begun to feel alive again, fully alive. Spring is more of a new beginning than New Year ever thought of being; in fact, the astronomers actually see it that way, too: They measure the length of the year from one vernal equinox to the next.

I trace my complete devotion to the spring faith to the three winters I spent in Minnesota. I never got used to those long, bitterly cold Minnesota winters. Out there on the prairie, the spring faith is sorely tested, for as colleague from Minnesota once wrote, “In our part of the world, spring does not mean gardening and cycling and short sleeves. For us, spring is a much more complicated season than that. It brings those things, but it can also involve shoveling and snowplowing and cross-country skiing.” We in New England can relate.

For me, the clincher in finally accepting the spring faith was the fact that spring always came, even in Minnesota.

I love the smell of spring, the cast of the light, the sounds of the birds returning. I love the spring rain, in what the African-American poet Langston Hughes once called “The time of silver rain,” that time “When spring and life are new.”

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