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Seasons and the Spirit

There are times that come when there is nothing to write about; I have a couple of ideas, that do not flourish. Moreover, I am busier than normal, and feel the need to produce something, as I may not have time later. Yet, this very need may well force the inability to write anything. I must, therefore I can’t. I could write about Mothering Sunday, but I have nothing new to say; I could comment on another passage in M. Lavinia’s letters, but that, too, seems to go awry, and less relevant to today than it might be. She was, after all, writing to very specific people in a very different age. I could go for another historical one, yet that, too, I normally take more time to ponder over. So, where do I go?

Looking out of my window, I can see a tree that has been bare all winter, now covered with pink blossom. On my way home this morning, I saw crowds of daffodils around. It is cold, but sunny, bringing a lift of light as the days lengthen. Leaves are beginning to open, the newness of their green, and the smallness, often just a mist of green before they grow to full size. Spring is indeed on its way, after what has been a rather grey, wet winter (although there may well be more of that to come). The arrival of spring means the end of winter, but not the end of bad weather.


Living in the city, I am more divorced from the rhythms of the country, and the farming year, than I was at Ditchingham. The dawn chorus, which was almost deafening there, is here often only pigeons and gulls, although the occasional burst of bird song is all the more treasured for that. I am aware, when travelling to Bungay on the bus, as to how the fields are coming along: muddy, planted, growing, harvest? Yet not to the extent that we were at Ditchingham, where we were surrounded by fields, and the sight of the tractor was one that could dominate our horizon. I remember well the retreat of 2004 for various reasons. But one of the main ones is when the harvest started at last. It had been a very wet summer, and the crops in the fields, normally all in by the time our retreat started at the end of August, were still there. Harvest started at some time during that retreat; although even I, who know very little, could see that they had gone past their best. One of my main joys during the retreat in normal years was to see the fields being ploughed, and the earth readied for new crops.  


At Springtime in Ditchingham, my early morning walks were becoming lighter; I started to see the lapwings, who would dive down to the fields before scooping up again just before they came to earth. To see the daffodils and primroses bloom, followed by bluebells, and the ‘candles’ on the chestnut trees. Here in the city, you can see some of these things: there are still spring flowers, and the leaves are greening the trees. But often the rhythm of the city does not change as much. It gets darker or lighter, but street lights ensure a certain lack of darkness; the dawn chorus is more lacking, the sound of engines being primary, if you live near a busy road. Often, one thing that marks the changing of the seasons is what the shops and cafes have to offer. Easter eggs? It must be spring (or, at least, after Christmas); iced coffee? Summer must be arriving.


Yet the rhythm of our lives continues, whether we live closely in tune with nature or not. We live through the spring, summer, autumn and winter of our own lives; often we experience parts of the seasons at different times. We go through a dying or grieving process as we let go of something or someone, or maybe our own ideas as to who we are. We feel we come to life again as we are renewed. We may see this in the lives of others also; maybe some seem to live through perpetual summer, or others through difficult winters for years on end. Yet so often we fail to see the blossom or the fruit in our own lives, and maybe that’s as it should be. To see too much to the heart of who we are may increase our pride, and take away our dependence on God. The fruit may be ours, but it is also God’s, and something we give glory and honour to God for, rather than ourselves. Yet, too, we should not be too hard on ourselves, or too believing in our own incapacity. Remember that others may see the blossom that you cannot.


It might be worth remembering, too, that we may be blind to the blossom in others’ lives; that God may see beauty where we only see desert. Remember that others may be going through a time of winter, however old they are, and therefore we may see the suffering but not the fruit of that suffering. It may be well to hold people in God’s hands, the God who knows who we and they are, and who we and they can become. To remember that we may be the blind leading the blind. For just as the planting and the harvest takes place, whether we are aware of it or not, so the seedtime and the fruitfulness of our lives and others happens whether we can see it or not.


There is a trusting of God in all this; we are not completely ignorant or incapable. There is a handing of our lives over to God, however incompletely; an allowing and an offering of ourselves. Seedtime and harvest don’t happen of themselves: there needs to be planting, pruning and picking. As we move towards the end of Lent, and towards our focus on our Lord’s passion, we could ponder on how Jesus was handed completely over to God; and contemplate on how we could allow God into our lives more deeply. Do we need pruning or planting? Are we blossoming, or struggling with weeds? Can we hear the (metaphorical) birdsong, or merely the (equally metaphorical) drone of traffic?

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