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Gestation and Rebirth Within and Without

April 15, 2011

Gestation and Rebirth Within and Without:

Steve and I are on the same wavelength this week, so much so that I felt the need to write about the seasonal changes yet again. Just as we approach our subject from different locations and varying climates, I hope I can offer an additional perspective. Steve spoke of the renewal of spring in Arizona. Having lived there, I know it is quite beautiful. It lacks the drama and contrast, however, of the sense of rebirth in Chicago or in any city that experiences the radical shift that winter brings.

Yes, today the crocuses are blooming and bluebells are raising their heads. The forsythia is giving off its vibrant yellow glow. Magnolias are budding and opening their magenta and pale pink blossoms. I remember the magnolias from my childhood, when growing up on Long Island, their deep burgundies and soft pinks in contrast with their pale whites were the first trees to bloom after the cold winter. They were the true sign that the depths of the long chilly months were coming to an end. We yearned for them as the days of the calendar moved from February to March to April.

I have just experienced my first real winter in many years. Almost nine years in southern California followed by four in Arizona, with its swelteringly hot summers, took the idea of branches in hibernation completely off my radar. Sure, like Steve shared with us earlier this week, we experienced seasonal changes in these climates, but nothing that even closely resembles the complete falling of leaves, the extreme appearance of death that manifests in the trees and lawns, and the retreat to the indoors that accompanies temperatures in the negative, single or low double digits.

I actually enjoyed it. People were telling me I was nuts. This may be true, but I nonetheless was moved by the silence and white of the snow, the crisp freshness of the cold air and the internal time that the plants were using to prepare themselves for the next season, for regeneration. It was an internal time for people as well: a time to reflect on who we were and what we cared about. It was a time for more sleep followed by walks in the snow, permitting one to be enveloped in the solitude that precedes and prepares one for birth.

It is formally spring now, but I am told that in Chicago it is not unlikely that there might be another snowfall, even as late as in May. But the feeling in the air here, just as in Arizona, is one of renewal. Not only are the trees showing their buds and the young bulbs popping into flower, but people are responding as if they have gained a new lease on life. Spring cleaning is beginning: dumping all that stuff that’s been sitting in the basement or garage all winter, making room for the new or simply opening up space that has been cluttered. Gardens are being planned and planted as down coats and boots are being exchanged for sweatshirts or light jackets. Last Sunday, an 86 degree day brought people into shorts and tank tops. Sure, we’re back to 40s and 50s now, but the clinging to the revitalization that the warming weather promises is everywhere.

It made me think. I heard on the radio that Chicagoans are even being nicer to each other. Is this what happens in the warmer weather? Does it imply that the cold brings out our nastiness? That’s a thought worth pondering. It also made me think of the concept of renewal in general. Spring cleaning is a term that we find familiar, but it takes on a special significance when one has been dealing for months with sidewalks caked with salt to melt snow, or a garage floor that’s been wet all winter from vehicles dripping snow and ice. These conditions are not at all conducive to clean up. Once the snow is melted, however, it is as if we come alive just as the trees, released from our winter bondage.

What is it that we renew? I began to wonder. Along with the spring cleaning of our homes and gardens, what cleaning do we tend to internally, inside of our souls? Just as the earth is experiencing a rebirth, so can we. Steve offered some suggestions, and I will add to those. This may be a time to begin that hobby you promised yourself, or the exercise class you’ve wanted to take. It may be a time to renew your most treasured relationships. Maybe it is time to commit to strengthening your values, or to pursuing more gainful employment. Or it could be time for you to focus on giving of your time and talents to others. Whatever your choice, you are offered this opportunity for renewal. This is so not just for those who are coming out of a severe winter into a flourishing spring. This can apply to you if you live in a climate that is temperate all year, like Steve’s or cold all year, like those who live in Alaska. The opportunity for renewal and regeneration exists within us to be born any time we put our attention to it.

May this season bring you a state of renewal and joy. I hope you will write and share your regenerative choices with us.

Robin Damsky

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