“Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”–Algernon Charles Swinburne
“I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”–William Wordsworth
A co-worker had joked about it in the previous week’s Friday staff meeting.
“Get ready! Next week, there’s a full moon and it ends with Friday the 13th!”
We all laughed good-naturedly as there is something about full moons that, anecdotally, seems to bring out, well, the “high-spirited” side of students. Of course, I’ve been in the education world long enough to know that all student behavior is cyclical, developmental, and dependent upon multiple variables, rather than the size of the moon. Still, we had no idea the real foreboding that my co-worker’s good-natured joke held . . .
I was only minorly concerned, but throughout the weekend, as the evidence and data continued to mount, so did my concern. By the beginning of the week, more and more states were affected by something called, COVID-19. What had once seemed like an other-worldly concern was unfolding into a harsh reality. Day-by-day, as this past week progressed, like dominoes in a line, more and more closings, including colleges, began to occur. By Wednesday, when Marshall University decided to close for a minimum of three weeks, the pulse of Hungtington, WV, was palpable, especially at our school, one block away from MU. Thursday’s new reality became a, “Not an if, but when we close” scenario; and by Friday, with a decision from WV Governor Justice, plans began to swiftly be created for our school’s students, and the majority of staff, beginning the following Monday, to remain at home “indefinitely” as instruction would become virtual. Life with COVID-19 was now part of the Tri-State area.
Simultaneously, while all the news outlets were filled with stories of COVID-19’s proliferation, spring was silently and nonchalantly populating the landscape. Daffodils displayed their buttery bonnet capped blossoms. Willow tree branches, that were already gradually unveiling their green, were now fully encumbered with vividly green leaves. Long and lithe brambles of delicate, golden forsythia waved hello in the shifting winds of the week. Throughout town and countryside alike, seemingly snow-capped trees expanded their blossomy branches. Furthermore, spring’s chorus could be heard through the cheerful morning birdsong and the goodnight tune of the spring peepers. Meanwhile the dipping and darting return flight of the brilliant blue birds added another harmonious line in spring’s song.
Those with whom I shared conversations about spring’s renewal seemed to concur that spring’s annual showing was early for the Tri-State area. I thought about this as I walked outside this past Saturday, taking in the surrounding spring sights. I wondered if there was a lesson in this seemingly premature unfolding of nature’s glory. Clearly, trees, flowers, shrubs, and even animals do not adhere to a calendar, much less a specific schedule. These heavenly creations only sense when the conditions are right. With winter’s mild temperatures, the large quantities of rain throughout the winter months, and the increasing amount of sunlight, nature took its cue to raise the curtain for spring’s first act. And so it is with COVID-19 . . .
The conditions have been right and the evolution of a new way of living and talking continues expanding its reach like the brambly branches of forsythia, blowing in the ever-shifting direction of the spring winds. One blossom, so to speak, begets another, and another, and soon enough, just as the forsythia began to reveal its blossoms one branch at time, COVID-19 has begun to send out branches of a virus around the world, blooming into pandemic proportions. Hand-washing, social distancing, quarentines, and even toilet paper are now words worthy of near-like worship and focus.
Meanwhile spring keeps on shining–continuing to beautify the world at a time when chaos, stress, tension, and concern seem to overburgeon our lives like those spring blossoms seem to over-burgeon trees. Sweet spring, be it ever-so-early, is signaling us to blossom into our fullest potential in the midst of this crisis–becoming the best versions of ourselves. We cannot fall into an, “us vs them” mentality, rather like spring, we must use these conditions to unite us to navigate together.
It is the fullness of the spring orchestra–the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the grass, the birds, the peepers, and so forth–that dresses-up nature, marking the end of gray winter months. Thus, it must be with the fullness of our humanity, our compassion, our ingenuity, our hardiness, and well, a good dose of patience and humor that must likewise band together for the symphony of survival.
I sincerely believe that each of us is a creation of God, filled with a Divine light. Let us shine those inner lights and unite them as one large flame of hope. Let us take our cue from Mother Nature using these conditions to bloom, allowing us to spring into action together with each person playing her or his harmonious part for the renewal of all.
Lady Bird Johnson had it right when she said, “Where flowers bloom so does hope.” May hope bloom in your heart today.