Was it light?
Was it light within?
Was it light within light?
Stillness becoming alive,
A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again.
– from Roethke’s poem, “The Lost Son”
Be still and wait was the mantra for winter, a time of dormancy more readily embraced when we know in our bones that spring and all its promise will come again.
Well, the waiting is over! Today marks the first day of spring, this time of birth and renewal and new beginnings of all sorts. In one of my blog’s most popular posts, Spring Equinox 2013, I suggested why the equinoxes and solstices are good occasions to mark significant beginnings, transitions, and endings in one’s life.
This sweet first day of spring (cool, bright, and fresh, a gentle breeze swaying the tall sunlit trees outside my window as I write) is especially significant in my own life: I’ve chosen it to mark the beginning of two large projects, each of which will take years to bring to fruition.
I’ve often been struck by how my forward-leaning thoughts lead backward as well. Musing on what I want next for my life leads me to reflect on what (and who) brought me to this point.
Which makes sense. Say you’re considering some grand new venture, whether it be an education, marriage, job, children, your first novel, practicing meditation, learning a language or a craft or a musical instrument. Before devoting one’s precious time and attention to anything significant, it makes sense—it’s really a matter of psychic hygiene—to reflect on our life so far. Why are we where we are? How did we arrive here, and nowhere else? What’s the appeal and promise of this new venture? What pleasures or goods may it offer? Speaking of which, are we good? Happy? Oh yeah, and who are we, anyway? What are we living for? To what gods or notions or feelings or instincts have we been pledging our precious allegiance? Will our next move be a departure, or a step along the same way we’ve been traveling?
Socratic questions, to be sure, and to the extent they go unasked our lives go unexamined. To the extent we neglect reflecting on the larger ecology in which our present actions are rooted, our new ventures will be less freely chosen than we may imagine. Looking back, and beneath the thin veneer of apparent choice, we may find—yet again!—that in fact our actions reflect the inertia of unconscious habits and conditioning.
With that wintry thought behind us (and before us), here’s to a season of new beginnings, and to seeing what we make of ourselves—theoretically, practically, and poetically—as in our forward motions away we keep returning to ourselves, much as the seasons do.