This morning, as I was leaving my driveway to come to work, a small bright-eyed brown rabbit hopped across my path. It was fitting, I thought, that he would make his first appearance since last summer on the very day of the Vernal Equinox, hopping jauntily up the road and disappearing among the newly green undergrowth.
Yesterday, watching a group of goldfinches at my feeder, I was delighted to note that their dull winter feathers were beginning to give way to lighter ones a definite promise of brightness to come.
Tomorrow, which will be today by the time this column appears in print, it is Good Friday. On Sunday, those of us who are Christians will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and the Easter Bunny will leave chocolate and eggs and gooey pink and yellow marshmallow chicks in baskets across the country.
According to my superficial studies on the subject, humans have been celebrating Easter for the entire span of our recorded history. Easter is named for the goddess of spring and all those brightly colored eggs hark back to a far earlier time when they symbolized new life. Even the Easter Bunny has his origins in the distant past back in the day when the ancients actually thought rabbits had something to do with the appearance of eggs in nests, of all things.
Indeed, it is easy to see why people would celebrate spring. The days are getting longer and warmer. New growth is sprouting everywhere. Birds are bursting out in song among branches full of buds that promise green leaves, blooms, and fruit.
I have always thought it especially beautiful that the whole cycle of existence birth, life, death, and birth is contained in the microcosm of a year. To me it is evidence of a higher power and life after death.
If one wants to know the nature of life, one must simply observe.
It seems to me to be a universal promise that even though every person, every creature, every blade of grass, every way of life, every moment, every day, every month and every year must pass away, something new will spring up to take its place when the time is right.
As a gardener, I am always delighted and astonished when spring raises its flower-crowned head again. It always appears to come from nowhere just when I have stopped expecting it to arrive.
There is always a moment in wintertime, just as there is always a moment when one is in the throes of grief or the throes of waiting for a painful period in ones life to end, when it seems that this will last forever. The wind will always be chill, the sky always gray, the goldfinches always dull, and the ground always fallow and drab and frozen.
But every year, the miracle repeats itself. From a seemingly dead countryside, life begins anew.
One day there is a small smattering of green just below the leaves where the ground is damp and black. At first there are merely tiny shoots with small leaves, and then they begin to take on identifiable characteristics a weed here, a snapdragon there.
My herb bed this year is already burgeoning with tiny chamomile plants and moss roses (not an herb but a pretty flower that is welcome to volunteer in any part of my garden). Small wildflowers are already blooming in the lawn a little purple flower with leaves resembling mint that my grandmother called hens bane, and tiny white and purple flowers that look like miniature pansies.
The daffodils are spreading yellow cheer along the fencerows and the cardinals and robins have begun their warm weather chorus.
I expect the scissor-tailed flycatchers to return to the power lines soon, and in a few more weeks, the Morrell mushrooms will be growing fat and delicious in the woods.
One of the things I find amazing about spring in northeastern Oklahoma is the way it comes on. At first it is slow just a hint here and there, and then suddenly, almost overnight, the woods have turned thick and impossibly verdant and the grass is up to your knees.
And so it is with life. Things inevitably pass away, and just as inevitably, they spring to life again.
As the earth awakens, as the trees bud out and bloom, as flowers open their multi-colored faces to the sun, as we celebrate Easter anew, may we all remember this simple truth new life is inevitable even now, it is beginning again. That is the promise of spring.