Thursday, June 03, 2021

Spring . . . Within and Beyond

Spring is the season that simultaneously calls us to celebration and to a sober sense of gratitude for the time that we have been given. The grace of renewal should lead to gratitude for the newness, and it should lead to an acute awareness of our need for renewal.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
pp. xv-xvii

As I’ve noted previously, I very much appreciate spring and resonate with the deep spiritual significance I discern in this season's unfolding transformations and bursting forth of new life . . . especially after the often tomb/womb-like experience of winter.

Life spirals ever forward . . . and spring reminds us of this truth in a particularly hopeful and vibrant way.

It’s no wonder, then, that when I creatively explored and shared my coming out experience in the visual/performance arts component of my master’s thesis in theology, I entitled it In the Footsteps of Spring.

In other words, I felt compelled to use the season of spring as a metaphor for that special type of story, of journeying, that I and many others have experienced as a movement of transformation, an act of holiness. I say this because for most who experience it, coming out involves moving out of a life-denying existence into new life. Much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch, the editors of the anthology Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, share similar thoughts when they write that “[t]he movement from the white frosts of winter to the green risings of spring has served as a powerful metaphor for physical and spiritual renewal. In this sense, it is truly the season for joy and hope.”

I share all of this as a way of introducing my first “Within and Beyond” post focused on spring. While past seasonally-focused posts celebrated autumn and winter (see here, here, here and here), this evening’s post is a compilation of words (excerpted from various writings that have been especially meaningful to me these last few months) and photos taken since the spring equinox in March.

The images taken outside (“beyond”) are mainly from the area around my home in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. Most of the interior (or “within”) images were taken inside my attic apartment, specifically in my room with its “meditation nook,” as one friend calls it. This “nook” (which I call my prayer shrine) basically serves as a focal point for when I pray and meditate. It contains John Giuliani’s beautiful portrait of the Compassionate Christ, along with an assortment of icons, stones, feathers, prayer beads, and other meaningful objects that I’ve collected over the years.

Also featured in this photographic collection is the seasonal prince himself, my friend Adnan, a young man for whom I care very deeply.

One last thing: My photography, like this blog, is a creative endeavor that grows out of my desire to discern and embody my unique oneness with Sacred Mystery, and my desire to be continually discovering how this embodiment can best serve my deepest self, others, and the world.

My hope is that this collection of words and images of spring may stir something deep and meaningful within you as well.

In the heart’s springtime, the inner self awakens. Seeds of growth, hidden in the midst of winter's bleakness, germinate and sprout. That which has been longed for and greatly desired is gradually brought forth and heralded with gladness. Visions, dreams, and yearnings for the future unfold. The gray moods, the frozen love, the sorrow and grief, the overwhelming angst, the dread and depression, all this slowly slips away as trust and enthusiasm rejuvenate the wintered spirit. Like the springtime land, so the inner land is thawed and re-energized.

The emotional clutter and the old debris that prevented clear thinking are cleansed. Spaciousness and openness expand like the wings of a great swan. Inner freedom is discovered. Confidence returns. Creative endeavors begin to emerge. Like the songbirds chirping as they return from the south, the heart begins to sing again.

. . . In this season of the soul, there is awe and wonder at the changes taking place. Spring generates surprise, delight, unmitigated joy, and newly found optimism. Now is the time to enjoy what is emerging from within, to savor the taste of hope, and to trust in what the future promises. It is the time to believe in growth and to give oneself to it wholeheartedly.

Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr
Excerpted from The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons
Sorin Books, 2005
pp. 66-67

I am like a young meadow wreathed in dawn,
like a shepherd’s pipe among the hills.

. . . You have come over me
as buds come upon a spray.
You have sprung forth in me
like roses in the hedgerows.

I bloom in the red-thorn of this love.
I bloom on all my branches
in the purple of these gifts.

The heart fires are stirring
with the new life returning;
It’s time now for learning
what rebirth really means.

. . . So, praise to the Earth
let all her creatures now sing;
Hope is renewed with
the coming of the Spring.

Lisa Theil
Excerpted from “Ostara (Spring Equinox)

During this season it is helpful to take a little time to meditate on the return of life. How are we, like the buds of the earth, opening to God and to others? What secrets buried deep in the soil of our soul are being revealed to us? How is the beauty of springtime unfolding for us? What is the great blossoming in us?

When I am able to hear the voiceless invitation of the seasons of the earth, I am almost always called into prayer. I’m not referring to formal prayer but rather a natural prayer that rises spontaneously from a heart that has learned to listen to the moments. It is the prayer of being there.

Macrina Wiederkehr
Excerpted from The Circle of Life:
The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons

Sorin Books, 2005
pp. 76-77

All tempest has,
like a navel,
a hole in its middle,
through which
a gull can fly,
in silence.

Fourteenth-century Japanese,

From across the centuries, this nameless voice tells us that at the heart of all struggle there is a peaceful enduring center, if we can only reach it. All the wisdom traditions affirm this.

Still, deeper paradox of life is carried here. For the gull flies through the peaceful center; it does not live there. The work, it seems, for us is to draw sustenance from that central, eternal space without denying the experience of the storm.

Repeatedly, we are thrown into the storm and into the center. When in the storm, we are exacerbated by our humaness. When in the center, we are relieved by our spiritual place in the Oneness of things. So to find the center and spread our battered wings is to feel the God within.

Our constant struggle is in living both sides of this paradox. For we cannot get to the center without going through the storm that surrounds it. Yet the storm of human experience can only be endured by knowing what the gull knows. The storm can only be survived from the center. In how we pass each other from storm to center and back – there you'll find the trials and gifts of love.

Mark Nepo
"The Edge of Center"
From The Book of Awakening
Conari Press, 2011
pp. 155-156

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Spring Awakens!
Spring: “Truly the Season of Joy and Hope”
When Spring Returns
Following the Footprints of Spring
O Dancer of Creation
Let the Greening Begin
Green Destiny
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2018)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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