Poets have never fully trusted spring. e.e. cummings likened it to a “perhaps hand”, hesitant and uncertain. T.S. Eliot called April “the cruellest month” (a class I taught once decided it was because he had bad hayfever). John Mark McMillan recently sang that “Spring without permission rages on again”. And Christina Rossetti had this to say:
Spring’s an expansive time: yet I don’t trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.(“Winter: My Secret”)
I began writing poetry at the start of spring in my last year of University, when life felt that it was opening up for me after a number of challenges, yet I felt the uncertainty and fear that it might all shrivel up again. The uncertainty drove me to poetry, and I haven’t looked back.
Today the southern hemisphere welcomed Spring, and my city, notorious for turning on dreadful weather in the first week of September, surprised us all with a glorious display of blossoms and sunshine. My family ate a picnic lunch in the garden and celebrated with a colourful blueberry “Spring” cake. Meanwhile our government announced another three weeks of lockdown, followed by a slow removal of restrictions. We’ve been here so, so many times before.
I don’t want to get into the politics of things here. I am largely in support of lockdowns, not because I like them or am blind to their (significant) negative consequences, but because I believe them to be mostly necessary. Despite that, I realised by the end of the day that I felt crushed. For me it’s the experience of seeing yet another year 12 class finish their schooling over Microsoft Teams, where bad internet connections, discouragement and the challenges of writing from home can so easily make everything much harder than it already is. And it already is so, so hard. I do not want to fail my students. I do not want them to lose heart. I do not want to see this happen again and again and again.
I do not have an answer to all of this. I thank God that I do not have to make the decisions that our governments have to make. But I do know that no spring, no end to lockdown, no return to “normal” will ever be everything we hope for, not in this life. As a believer in Jesus, I know that it isn’t only lockdowns, hayfever or aphids that stand to ruin our hopes for spring. In this life, spring is only ever a promise, not the fulfillment.
So when hayfever hits, or Melbourne delivers with its early-spring winter revival efforts, or lockdowns are extended, I am going to try something: turning to God, and thanking Him that this is not all there ever will be. Because our final spring is not here yet, and when it comes it will never be destroyed.