Tuesday, February 26, 2019

From My Nature Journal: Thresholds

(Note: This essay goes back several years to the time Gail and I lived in Castle Rock, Colorado. With an apology that it will be awhile before my loved ones in the north country have this experience, and just as Groundhog Day and dreams of spring in early February seemed absolutely ridiculous to me when I lived in Minnesota, the following happened to me in a February, so I share it now.)

I smelled it today, and it wafted in more welcome than the sweetest perfume.

As I got out of the car on my way to a morning appointment, I caught a whiff -- that moist, earthy scent -- spring! It transported me quickly back in time to my Chicago roots. Common in the Midwest, the scent is not something one senses very often here in Colorado, what with the dry climate and all, but it was a remarkable sensation as I experienced it. I closed my eyes and mouth and breathed in deeply.

Late winter is a threshold, at least in climates where winter is truly a force with which to be reckoned. One day it is cold, and the ground seems locked in the vice-hold of the season. The next day something happens. You catch this sensation and something is born in your spirit: a threshold is crossed. The first harbingers of spring can be likened to what medieval Celtic Christians called ‘thin places,’ a fleeting moment when heaven and earth commingle, when death and life mix, or, for our purpose here, when spring becomes the proverbial cat that will not let winter stuff it back in the bag.

John O’ Donohue says of this threshold: “Within the grip of winter it is almost impossible to imagine the spring… Then, imperceptibly, somewhere, one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible… It is there before we see it, and then we can look nowhere without seeing it…”

Even if one loves the winter months as I do, eventually one still looks forward to spring: wildflowers, rain, garden blooms, t-shirt warmth, thunderstorms, going barefoot outside, and baseball! But even as one begins to long for spring, its coming still almost always catches us by surprise, unawares, forgetful that it was getting to be about the time for such a thing.

We don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I
wonder if I’ll get my first inkling of spring today…”

We don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I wonder if I’ll get my first inkling of spring today…”

If we might only pay better attention we’d find our days full of these kinds of thresholds, portents of change, but they usually catch us snoozing. Yet when they catch us fully awake, one moment we see things a certain way and then it’s as a filter is newly placed over our eyes, and the experience causes us to see things very differently, sometimes diametrically so.

It’s a moment from a quiet place just off the Emmaus Road, and whether we like it or not, it has become time to cross over.

“…And their eyes were opened…” (Luke 24:31)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5)

“I pray that the eyes of your heart will be opened.” (Ephesians 1:18)

“Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. His eyes were opened, his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:25)

~~ RGM, From an Old Entry
in My Nature Journal

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