First. Something always has to be first. You can argue or reflect on the chicken and egg thing but in the end something must be first to get the ball rolling. And in our yard these days,it is the crocuses. The crocuses have been first. Everything else is limping along in that ‘are you sure it’s still not going to snow?’ way we all have of protecting ourselves from the fickle nature of spring. Most of the other green things who are just as anxious, I’m sure, to be here as we are to see them. But they are hanging back, inching into the world with a Zen-like pace. Thankfully, the crocuses decided they were all in and bloomed their way into the world. They were first to start a race that will soon topple us with wonder.
And spring is that time to be filled with wonder. It is a daily watch of ‘what’s happening now?’ and it can sneak up on you. I’ve already lamented that somehow I missed some of the local lakes lose their winter shield of ice. I was busy doing the mundane tasks of what seemed most important on an ever-present list of to-do’s, and ‘Bam!’,was gone. Now water laps at the shores and I missed the chance to say a fond goodbye to the ice that has kept me company for months. Spring is a full time job of watching, of staying awake to the awe.
On Saturday I was sitting in a chair that is just inside our deck doors. I was reading, minding my own narrow business, when a swath of moving yellow caught my eye. A goldfinch was hopping from deck chair to the rocks near our backyard water garden. The sheer sweetness of its color filled my heart with gratitude that I get to exist with a creature so intensely beautiful and so fragile. Watching it take quick drinks of the cold water I wondered at where it had come from, how it had spent its winter. Did it know it was being blessed and had become a blessing to this human hungry for the color and hope of spring?
Being first has never been my forte. I have never been as bold as the crocuses in showing their first of the season color. More likely to hang back, I want to see if it is safe yet to show up, to let my full,self be shown, be known. What about you? Which is why the purple crocuses with their impossible yellow centers have become such a lesson, such an object of reflection to me this spring. With dead leaves left unraked from the fall surrounding them, they pushed their way through the hard ground and chose to show up. They not only showed up but gave it their all and reached toward the sun with their whole being, being the first to splash the landscape with a hue that pulls at your heart. For what would any of us do such a thing?
This experience with the crocuses and the goldfinch reminded me of Mary Oliver’s Instructions for Living a Life, something I quoted during our Easter Sunrise service: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. They are good instructions and ones that, if followed, might lead to a much fuller life. It is what I have been trying to do these slow moving, spring days. I am trying to pay attention….except for that missed ice exit….to all this spring might be offering up. To what is first…and second….and brightest….and most subtle. It is a full time job but one I accept with humility and a deep hope.
Having accepted the offer of this paying attention, I have no doubt that astonishment will be the paycheck. I know that I will be offered daily, if not hourly, rewards of astonishment. Why, just now I looked out the window in the pale morning light and I can see the forsythia has decided to join the grand parade. Yellow branches of color, like fireworks in the summer sky, are shooting up into the morning. Slowly, slowly, the world is waking up with their showiest selves.
Pay attention. Check. Be astonished. Check. Tell about it……which is what I am doing right now.