Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring and the cycle of life

Spring is in full blush in Virginia. We took a trip up to Northern Virginia yesterday afternoon to pick up my cousin Cait, who is here for a few days from Ireland. The trees along the route are gushing with new green. The colors in Virginia change daily: red or pink on the redbud trees one day, then the dogwoods burst into white the next day. Meanwhile, the green canopy on the big trees is bursting forth.

Yet with all of this new life of Spring, there is a sharp contrast with the farewells we are enduring at St. Paul's in recent days. We've had three funerals in a week, and there are two more coming in the next week. These always seem to come in clusters. Seasons are predictable. But the cycle of death and new life has no rhythm, no predictability; death and life comes when it comes, often at the same time. 

Our friend, Karen, sent a Mary Oliver poem this morning that captures this well, I think. The photo goes with the poem, and is from the Shenandoah National Park from our hike a couple of weeks ago. Here you are:
In Blackwater Woods 
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

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