Monday, May 30, 2022

Spring . . . Within and Beyond

Spring is the season of returning light and life. . . . [It] evokes, perhaps more than any other season, a sense of movement and change [which can serve] as a powerful metaphor for physical and spiritual renewal.

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

As I’ve noted previously, I very much appreciate the season of spring and resonate with the deep spiritual significance I discern in its 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 through 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 journey 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 and 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 the latest in my seasonal-focused “Within and Beyond” series of posts. Past posts have mainly celebrated autumn and winter (see here, here, here, here, here and here). This evening’s post, however, is a compilation of words and images that explores and celebrates spring. The words I share are excerpted from various writings (including song lyrics) that have been especially meaningful to me these last few months. The images are photos I’ve 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 and by Minnehaha Creek.

Most of the interior (or “within”) images were taken in my attic apartment which I very intentionally maintain as a space of sanctuary and renewal. This is essential given my often emotionally exhausting work as a palliative care chaplain in a hospital setting. It’s a space that harbors what one friend has referred to as “Michael’s meditation nook,” and which I choose to call my prayer shrine or altar. It serves as a focal point for my times of prayer and meditation, and features John Giuliani’s beautiful portrait of the Compassionate Christ. Also present on this altar is an assortment of icons, stones, feathers, prayer beads, and other meaningful objects I’ve collected over the years.

Also included in this evening’s spring-focused post are two photos of my friend Calvin Stalvig’s art installation, Ancestor (left). Exhibited in May at the Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota, Ancestor is a powerful “meditation on wholeness,” one that reflects my friend's “embodied” research into “the origins of pleasure, dissociation, and restoration.”

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 you will enter into the following collection of words and images in a meditative way, and that what you encounter as you do so may stir something deep and meaningful within you, something that calls forth in your life a season of joy, hope, and transformation.


If winter enshrouds the soul in a chrysalis, then spring sees its reemergence. If we’ve used the quiet, solitary days of winter well, we approach spring with a soul that has had its inner resources tested and strengthened. We exit the cold stillness and pick up the threads of a busy, active life with fortitude and joy.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
p. 209

A Light exists in Spring
Not present in the Year
At any other period –
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows upon the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay –

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Emily Dickinson
“A Light Exists in Spring”

The awakenings of spring represent an emergence into full life and consciousness. There is a sense of completeness to this particular motion of spring, a sense of wholeness.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring
p. 72

Spring that begins
With bringing hope to loving hearts,
Your breath, rising over earth, erases all sadness.

When fire fills our souls,
Your sweet warmth dries our tears;
You replenish the earth,
With a sweet mystery of fruits and flowers.

But, my beauty is in vain!
My heart, full of love,
Mourns for my unfaithful love to return.

. . . If he returns one day, my grief will disappear,
My tenderness is his,
And the sweet intoxication
Of my burning love for when he returns.

Ferdinand Lemaire, librettist
(From “Printemps qui commence,” an aria in
Camille Saint-Saëns’s opera Samson et Dalila)

Springtime awakenings mean new awareness, sharper consciousness, and a more intense understanding of the edges of life against which we are being constantly rubbed. To choose not to awake is to stay in perpetual winter, to dull ourselves so that we hardly see those edges – and certainly much in North American culture urges us toward this state of spiritual dullness. Spring insists otherwise.

– Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Excerpted from Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
p. 74

Come, my beloved; let us walk amidst the knolls,
For the snow is water, and Life is alive from its
Slumber and is roaming the hills and valleys.
Let us follow the footprints of Spring into the
Distant fields, and mount the hilltops to draw
Inspiration high above the cool green plains.

Dawn of Spring has unfolded her winter-kept garment
And placed it on the peach and citrus trees
. . . The sprigs of grapevine embrace each other like
Lovers, and the streams burst out in dance
Between the rocks, repeating the song of joy

Come, my beloved . . .

Kahlil Gibran
Excerpted from The Life of Love

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)

Outer order contributes to inner calm.

Beloved One, be near as I begin this new day of life. The work of this spring day knocks at my door, anxious for me to begin. But let this present moment be still as a stone as I rest my heart in you. May past and future meet in the peace of this springtime morning prayer. Quiet my restless heart as I now enter into silence.

May this spirit of silence be like a golden thread woven into every work of this new day that is dawning. May I feel the touch of that thread in everything and so recall the fullness of this moment.

Edward Hays
Excerpted from Prayers For a Planetary Pilgrim
Forest of Peace Books, 1989
p. 32

It’s a beautiful day outside
But I’m inside thinking of you
There’s something in the atmosphere
That’s changing my point of view
A self-imposed confinement
While I figure out what to do
All my thoughts collect
And it’s clear that I need you

I need you like the spring
Needs the sun to come into bloom
Feel free to fall into my arms
I will catch you
. . . Sincerely
I want to be the one you run home to
The one you run home to

Sarah Naghshineh and Paul Visser
From “Sincerely” (a track from
Petula Clark’s 2016 album, From Now On)

There’s a world outside
Wider than the walls I build
Where I can be what I want to be
Wider than the walls I build
It’s a new day
Are you ready
For the time of your life?
We're moving fast
So live and let live

It’s a maze
It’s amazing
Searching for the truth

I heard an angel say
Let the walls come down
I’ve seen the last
Of these empty dreams
Let the walls come crashing down

I’ve got everything I could ever need
I’ve got a gift inside . . .

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
From “Useless” (a track from their
2005 album, The Walk of Faith)

Everything looks new
this last week of spring rains:
lime-bright Swedish ivy;
ice plant, with its fat, light leaves.

I’m too tired to step
out of the car. All last night
wind worried the screen door,
banging it back and forth, and my dreams

were full of fearful calculations:
how long will the old furnace hold out,
and who will love me when I break?
You can’t eat

color; you can’t put it
in an envelope to the tax man, or the mechanic.
But it was there to greet us in the morning
when Makendra needed me

to drive her to work. We listened
to Nas rap on the radio
about future generations
and noticed how storms had washed the world clean

for a minute. A million
shades of green – chartreuse, forest,
mint – you could never
catalog them all, not if you spent a lifetime.

What a beautiful,
unfixable mess I’m in,
with little idea how to cross
this wide, wild water,

or whose rough hands will pull me over.

Alison Luterman

I imagine that one of the great storehouses of blessing is the invisible neighborhood where the dead dwell. Our [ancestors and] friends among the dead now live where time and space are transfigured. They behold us now in ways they never could have when they lived beside us on earth. Because they live near the source of destiny, their blessings for us are accurate and penetrating, offering a divine illumination not available according to the calculations of the given visible world. Perhaps one of the surprises of death will be a retrospective view of the lives we lived here and to see how our friends among the dead clothed us in weave after weave of blessing.

John O’Donohue
Excerpted from “Perhaps Our Friends Among the Dead Are Blessing Us”
in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
Convergent, 2008
p. 212

When the world feels like an emotional roller coaster, steady yourself with simple rituals. Do the dishes. Fold the laundry. Water the plants. Simplicity attracts wisdom.

Something strange blankets the city and the soul in the first days of spring. The weary, the rushed, even the dispossessed surrender to a certain non-specific gladness. They smile at you, you smile at them – under the blessing rays of the vernal sun, we are somehow reminded of what we humans were always meant to be to each other and to this stunning, irreplaceable planet we share with innumerable other creatures. In attending to nature at its best and most buoyant, we suddenly attune to the best of our own nature. This, perhaps, is why the modern environmental conscience was jolted awake by the terrifying notion of a silent spring, bereft of birdsong and bloom.

Maria Popova
Excerpted from "Spring With Emily Dickinson"
The Marginalian
April 18, 2014

The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together. Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on. When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it. When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become an active force of renewal and encouragement in the world. In this way, even in your own hidden life, you can become a powerful agent of transformation in a broken, darkened world. There is a huge force field that opens when intention focuses and directs itself toward transformation.

John O’Donohue
Excerpted from “Blessing Our World Now”
in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
Convergent, 2008
p. 216

Behind we leave our sorrows
Ahead an archway in scents of spring
Under which our dreams will blossom.

Oriental Scent
Excerpted from “Scented Archway

O Gracious God, Divine Beloved, as this part of the earth turns away from the sun, I turn toward you. I lift up to my song of thanksgiving for all the gifts and blessings of this day. Among those gifts are the trials and tribulations that serve as opportunities to strengthen my love for you. As the earth comes alive in t. May my pain this day reflect the labor of springtime that gives birth to new life. Before I conclude this day, I desire that all things be at peace with me. . . . [And] as the darkness of outer space surrounds me, heal me and all the earth of our failings this day. Absolve us of our sluggish delays in bringing about an age of peace and justice, of our blindness to the sufferings and plight of our brothers and sisters. . . . Love sings many songs; may this prayer be the song of my heart.

Edward Hays
Excerpted from Prayers For a Planetary Pilgrim
Forest of Peace Books, 1989
p. 33

I place my relationships on the altar to God

The ego speaks first and the ego speaks loudest. It will always make the case for separation: someone did this or that and therefore does not deserve my love. In any moment I listen to the ego – denying love to someone – to that extent love will be denied to me. I pray for a power greater than my own to push back the storm of my neurotic thinking. What I place on the altar to God is then altered within my mind.

My relationships are part of a divine curriculum designed for me by God. I invite His spirit to enter my mind, that my thoughts might be guided to innocence and love and not stray to defense or attack. Thus will my relationships be blessed and their potential for love fulfilled.

Dear God,
May my relationships be lifted
to divine right order
and take the form
that best serves Your purposes.
May all unfold
within me and my relationships
according to Your will.


Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from A Year of Miracles:
Daily Devotions and Reflections

HarperOne, 2013
Day 161

Whatever is happening in the circumstances of your life, stop. Just for the moment.

Bring your attention toward the here and now. Let the moment become fascinating. Gently begin to acknowledge what is actually happening where you are. Come out of your conclusions about life, your dreams about past and future, and begin to notice the sensations, feelings, thoughts that are present, right here and right now. Let your present experience – sights and sounds and smells – become the most curious dance in all the universe. You are seeing, tasting, touching, hearing the world as if for the first time. This is your Garden of Eden, your messy, intense, joyous, and heartbreaking Garden of Eden, and you are awake to it at last.

Jeff Foster
Excerpted from The Way of Rest:
Finding the Courage to Hold Everything in Love

Sounds True, 2016
p. 24

NEXT: Ascension

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Spring . . . Within and Beyond (2021)
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Spring Awakens!
A Day Both Holy and Magical
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
In the Footsteps of Spring: Introduction | Part I | II | III | IV | V
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2021)
Blue Yonder
A Sacred Pause
Mystical Participation
“Everything Is Saturated With the Sacred”
What We Crave

Images: Michael J. Bayly.