Growing up in Florida, I never gave much thought to these moments. We all talk about the Four Seasons as if this is the way the whole world experiences the passing of the year, but in the tropics it always felt more like Two Seasons — Wet/Hot/Summer and Dry/Less Hot/Winter. Occasionally in the ‘winter’ months cold fronts would come through for a week or two, and we would excitedly bundle up into our cotton sweaters. But for the most part the year was one of intensifying heat measured in my childhood by whether or not it was too hot to play outside all day.
Spring in England, on the other hand, is a very definitive and magical moment. First, the whispers of the white snowdrops. Then, the purple, white, orange heads of crocuses appear. And when the daffodils raise their heads you know you’ve arrived.
It was only when I moved to the UK that I began to appreciate the significance of these moments like the Spring Equinox. After the long, dark, rainy winter it feels like We’ve Made It!! From now on the days will be lighter, the dark will recede, energy will rise, and all creatures great and small will come out of their winter cocoons to play in the sunshine.
I’ve spent so many weeks recently standing in wintery parks while my kids played, staring at lifeless branches, broken sticks, a brown world. It happens every year, and somehow I always feel astonished when, out of those dead branches, small new growths begin to appear, the first signs of new leaves, and out from the brown earth emerge flowers.
We witness this coming-in-being all the time, yet it feels so enigmatic and hard to grasp. For parents it’s the same, one minute you and your partner are just living your lives; and then you get pregnant and suddenly a new being comes into the world, emerges from your body, and becomes their own person. A whole new beautiful person is suddenly in the world, when they just weren’t there before.
I think this is maybe one of the things Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was trying to communicate in his drawing of the Bird/Sky (see my previous post). It’s that powerful relationship between the form and the formless. The being and the canvas of conditions from which it sprung. There is the bird (or cloud, another favourite for Buddhists) that arises, but the real story is the background, the sky, the formless creative energy that is the Beginning and End and Open Space in which all things occur.
Thich Nhat Hanh explains this process with the example of a japonica bush at his hermitage in France which blossomed every spring. One year the blossoms were all killed by a frost. “A few weeks later the weather became warm again. As I walked in my garden I saw new buds on the japonica manifesting another generation of flowers. I asked the japonica flowers: ‘Are you the same as the flowers that died in the frost or are you different flowers?’ The flowers replied to me: ‘Thay, we are not the same and we are not different. When conditions are sufficient we manifest and when conditions are not sufficient we go into hiding. It’s as simple as that.’ This is what the Buddha taught. When conditions are sufficient things manifest. When conditions are no longer sufficient things withdraw. They wait until the moment is right for them to manifest again.” (Hanh No Death, No Fear p.3)
This is a day to celebrate the arising of Spring and the turning wheel of the seasons. (Check out another great post about the Spring Equinox by the Natural Pantheist). Today, I celebrate the miracle of arising. When I try to mentally understand how something could arise out of nothing, out of space, my mind rebels and says That’s Not Possible! But there is something deeper in me that has been watching the flowers, that has felt a baby appear as if from nowhere and grow inside of me and emerge. And this part of me understands it to be true.