Spring is a Time for Awakening

Maple ree flowers and leaves 1Though I am fonder of some than of others, for me every season has its unique blessings. Autumn has always been a favorite of mine because I like the crispness of the air and the vivid colors that paint the scenery. However, the cycle of the seasons produces different feelings in everyone and we all have our favorites. It may be that as a poet I am more sensitive to or pay more attention to the change of the seasons because I feel it so keenly. Winter for me is a time for rest and often for extra sleep. The dark hours encourage it. During the winter, like the bare branched trees and the hibernating creatures, I am less active and more inclined to quieter occupations.

It’s easy to sleep late in the winter. The light does not come through the curtains until morning is well advanced. Chilly weather does not encourage leaving warm covers for frigid floors. Yet as the light hours grow longer and the dark ones shorter, the day calls to me sooner and sooner. Reluctant as I may be to get up from my bed, it becomes less alluring to linger than to rise into the day. Even as the trees and the birds greet the brightening weeks, with the spring, something in me begins to wake up.

Winter encourages me to make soups and stews. My pantry and refrigerator are stocked with warming foods. With the advance of spring I think more about salads and lighter meals. I toss the cold weather recipes that I have accumulated yet not found time to make and clip out more recent ones geared to fresher, less sturdy meal components. Now that I can see it, when I look around at the winter dust on shelves and surfaces, I feel more diligent about eliminating it. Somehow when I can’t see it, it is so much easier to ignore. Now it no longer is.

When I was out and about, my eyes had become accustomed to bare trees sleeping in the cold. All winter I admired the still shapes of the bare branches against the sky. Now as the trees blossom and leaf out, they seem to be dancing with joy. The spring breezes flutter the trees’ new emerging clothing as they dress themselves in their fresh spring wardrobes. When I go about my errands, my heart sings along with the turning wheels of my car.

When I used visit my daughter in Italy, she would come into my room of a morning to waken me from my jet-lagged sleep. She would open the curtains and turn to me as I clung to my pillow. “Wakey, wakey,” she’d say with a smile. Finally I’d open my eyes and greet the day, glad to be awake and alive, ready for a new adventure. Spring feels like that. It is time to pursue the new, the untried, the innovative. Time to put away the darker, heavier winter clothes and put on light, bright colors and fabrics, to free the feet of boots and don sandals. Time to awaken to the new season and to rejoice in it.

The Many Kinds Of Love

Peace Village retreat 7eart cropped2Saint Valentine may or may not have actually existed. In fact, research reveals that there were not one but three Saint Valentines in all, with various details to their lives and deaths though all were martyred. The general information on the Internet indicates they were killed for performing marriages that had been forbidden by the Emperor Claudius the Cruel. It is also said that the Christian church took advantage of a popular pagan festival of that month, substituting the celebration of St. Valentine’s beheading.

Saint Valentine and Valentines’ Day aside, romantic love, while nice to have in one’s life is not necessarily the most satisfying. I recall how one day a dear friend was bemoaning his recent breakup with his former girlfriend. “Nobody loves me,” he mourned. “I love you,” I replied. “But you love everybody,” he retorted. I sighed and nodded. I had wanted to cheer him up. However he seemed determined to be sad. Many crave romantic love and are not comforted by the fact that they are loved in other ways

According to the Internet, the Sanskrit language has 96 words for love, ancient Persian has 80, Greek has three and we have only one. What a sad state of affairs! There are synonyms that express a loving feeling for someone or something: fondness, affection, adoration, and so on. Regardless, they do not adequately describe the love of a child for its parents, of the attachment many feel for their animal companions, or even of where they live. You probably would not say, “I am fond of my baby, my cat, or feel affection for my home,” you would usually say, “I love…”

The fact that we have no other word for it means that we apply the term “love” to many situations and individuals. We say we love this or that or them, yet we do not mean we have romantic feelings. Does this weaken the impact of the word? My friend’s dismay when I told him I loved him might indicate that the love I had for him was somehow not as desirable or as important as the love of his girlfriend. Yet my feelings for him were actually less tinged with judgment and more comprehensive than the ones he craved to hear from her.

Unconditional love or in Latin Caritas and in Greek Agape may be the most important of the kinds of love we can express for others or even for dwelling places or animals. That kind of love carries no criticism or parameters, no qualifiers or desire for any return. It is simply and purely love in its most beautiful form. When we are at our most loving is when we can give this love to others. It has the power to transform and to heal as well as to uplift. It is this love that the martyred St. Valentine back in the days of Rome portrays to us. Perhaps his love for others as he expressed it before he was executed might be seen as an example for us all.

 

Robin’s Garden, by Tasha Halpert

More leeks for copyMy late son Robin was a gardener by nature. He loved plants and grew them with joy. Whatever he chose to plant grew well for him. He loved growing his own vegetables and harvesting them to cook for himself. As do the Native American peoples, he believed in giving back to the earth whatever was taken from it. Toward that end when he harvested his vegetables he would always give back something to the ground where they were planted.

He helped me with my garden when I had one, however my gardening days are now over and I no longer have the physical space to grow seeds and plants. Nevertheless, each spring I grow something in his memory. I call it Robin’s memorial garden. I create it not with seeds but with recycled carrot tops. I always have carrots in my refrigerator. Carrots are one of my staples.

My vegetable drawer is never without a package of organic carrots–you never know when you’ll need one for soup, salad or just a vegetable for a meal. In the spring, when I take them out, the tops often have sprouted just a bit. These sprouts are my cue to begin Robin’s annual memorial garden. I cut about a half to three quarters of an inch or so off the top of each sprouted carrot and place it in a shallow dish on my kitchen counter.

There they will get some light. After a while green feathery tops appear. These will grow until they have exhausted the nourishment left in the carrot. This is what I call Robin’s garden. Sometimes the carrot stubs grow little roots. I have read that if I were to plant them–which I have not done, they might grow another carrot. I watch with pleasure the little green sprouts grow and think of my son and his green thumb.

While he is no longer growing anything on Earth, his life has inspired wonderful growth here, both for me and for his sister, my daughter Laura. She has done and continues to do valuable work to bring awareness of and assistance to those with traumatic brain injury. In life, Robin sustained a number of concussions as a result of his enthusiastic pursuit of ice hockey. Today my daughter has not only written extensively about traumatic brain injury she has also worked as an advocate to be of help to those with this condition.

In the year after he died I decided to create a body of work in his memory. He loved poetry. As a memorial to him, I began a deliberate focus for myself on what I call the poetic eye: a way of looking at life from a poetic perspective. Since his death I have written many hundreds of poems. This work is also dedicated to him. I know that there are others who have been inspired by him as well. He goes on living in their efforts. While I regret deeply that he is no longer on earth, I celebrate his life with my remembrance and with these little carrot tops that I grow each spring.