We moved to a new city last fall. My fall and winter attention focused on getting the inside of the house in order. We knew that we would focus on the yard and outside projects in the spring. With our list of projects complete for the first months in our home, the winter seemed to linger past February, well into March. And my spirit yearned to be outside as I looked for signs of new life in the spring.
One of those signs of spring in central Ohio is the blooming of the forsythia bush. In our previous residence, I knew where to look for the yellow blossoms. They seemed to be prevalent along the edges of yards and green spaces. So, I looked. I scanned my new neighborhood. I kept watch on my route to work 20 miles away. And my heart felt heavy with each passing week as I missed the familiar first sign.
The heaviness of heart is also due to the folklore that there will be three more snowfalls after the forsythia blooms. With each day that passes without seeing the bush-sign, the possibility of winter-like cold days of snow also extends further into April, or heaven forbid, early May!
There were a few warm March days, during which I was able to tackle some preliminary yard work. Thinning out the front overgrown bushes. Raking the last leaves caught at the edge of the landscaping beds. And I begin to dream of the future shape of those beds and the new plants that we would plant in the coming months. I also took note of the scraggly bush at the foot of our front stairs and made a mental note to remove it as soon as possible. It had looked out of place last fall. And it didn’t look much better in the light of the new year.
Outside My Front Door
Much to my surprise, just before Palm Sunday, I noticed yellow blossoms on that scraggly bush. The forsythia for which I had searched was growing in my own yard. The blossoms on that odd little plant had opened one day while I was at work, and I could begin to wait for the three more snows. Or more importantly, I could appreciate the sign that spring was more present and the threat of winter was waning.
How often do we look for familiar signs of new life, even when we are in different places? How often do we experience both joy and disappointment in the same breath? The thing for which I yearned was literally at my front door. It was also the thing that I concluded was no good.
I appreciate the experience of Easter in the northern hemisphere during spring. It is easy to see the signs of new life around us. We are invited to look for those familiar markers that give us hope with the passing of the seasons.
We are also invited to find the familiar in the midst of new surroundings, knowing that familiar does not mean that things are the same. Our forsythia bush is still scraggly. It doesn’t look anything like the large bushes that come to my mind when I think of our old neighborhood. And yet, it is the same species. It still represents the coming of spring. It’s yellow blossoms, however sparse, still brighten creation.
I do confess that my forsythia is still on my list to be removed. It is the wrong plant in the wrong place. But perhaps I need to add a forsythia to another part of the yard so that in years to come I will know where to look for my marker of spring.
In this Eastertide, what are the signs that your heart yearns to experience as a reminder of the hope of new life? What are the familiar indications that reassure you that the life continues to grow and bloom around you? And are there new signs that you notice in the rhythm of your days that bring fresh new insight into your world?
May you receive the gifts of new life that are blooming in your neighborhood as signs of new possibilities in your own life this day.