Every morning, unless it’s way below zero, I begin my day by walking about a mile and a half in my neighborhood. That means I meet the same people walking their dogs, the same children on the way to or standing in line to board the school bus. It also means in springtime I take note of the incremental changes in trees, shrubs, and perennials; or I relish seeing some gardener’s new annual plantings. I also hear birds, especially cardinals and robins, sending out messages to others of their kind and to the world at large. Well, it’s spring in Minnesota after a very long and snow-filled April, so these daily gifts from nature are especially appreciated by the likes of me.
In just the last two days, a big miracle has happened. Ornamental fruit trees have gone from leafing out to full-bodied bloom: white apple, pink crab-apple, and even the occasional redbud tree that reminds me of Sunday drives into the country where I could spot redbuds and accompanying dogwoods off in the woods . This year, it’s the white apples along my route that take my breath away with their stunningly beautiful sprays. I keep thinking of William Wordsworth’s joyous exclamation, “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the skies.” My own heart, recently renewed by a cow membrane’s replacing my old aorta, does just that as I stop walking so I can stand in awe and delight beside those thousands of tiny white blooms emitting their delicate aroma.
As I pause in awe, I think what I think so often in springtime: how can anyone fail to notice that there is some power greater than ourselves at work in the universe. Don’t bother splitting theological hairs over what to call this power. Just notice it, take it in, respond to it. Ground that, where I live, has just spent long months covered with snow and ice, turns our world into a pretty uniform black and white canvas. Suddenly, or so it seems, shoots begin to appear, dormant branches send tiny yellow-green tendrils out into the atmosphere, declaring a powerful will to renew and reproduce and color our world. Just look at the thousands and thousands of little yellow droppings from maples, turning sidewalks into the proverbial streets paved with gold imagined by so many utopianists. Or try counting just a few sidewalk paving blocks covered a week or so later with maple whirl-a-gigs that come twirling down. None of those will ever become even a shoot of a tree, yet nature produces them every spring out of what Loren Eisley, the famous anthropologist, educator and natural science writer posited: he firmly believed that phenomena like these tell us, if we’re alive enough to hear, just how exuberant and even extravagant nature is. All this plenitude of color and scent and motion comes to us not for utilitarian purposes but out of what Eisley imagined to be some delight in affirming an arc of creation.
So when I go outside today, I’ll thank that power greater than me for reminding me to feel and express joy and gratitude, especially in these times where some of us human creatures are not being very good stewards of the earth and the planet. I’ll stop beside the flowering trees and feel closer to beauty and creation.