The beginning of spring comes late to Denmark. As I write these words, the weather app on my smartphone tells me that there is a 10 degree difference between the temperature here in Copenhagen and the thermometer level in my former home town of Dublin.
The weather forecast also warns me against returning the snow shovel to the shed – I’m reliably informed that the St Patrick’s Day three-legged race in 2008 was run during a blizzard!
The approach is fast
Nevertheless, there’s definitely something beginning to stir in the March air. The evenings are finally growing longer and lighter. Tiny yellow flowers – I’m told they’re ‘errantries’ – speckle the once hibernating garden. At Saint Alban’s Church we’re more than halfway through the fasting of Lent. And thoughts are now turning to the feasting of the Easter celebrations.
Whether we consider ourselves to be religious or not, we can often feel a sense of new possibilities, fresh starts and bright beginnings at this point in the calendar. In a poem entitled ‘Begin Again’, the much-loved Irish poet Brendan Kennelly writes about the unique character of this time of year.
“Begin again to the summoning birds / to the sight of the light at the window, / begin to the roar of morning traffic / all along Pembroke Road. / Every beginning is a promise / born in light and dying in dark / determination and exaltation of springtime / flowering the way to work. / Begin to the pageant of queuing girls / the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal / bridges linking the past and future / old friends passing though with us still.”
Eternal hope of spring
God knows we need such fresh perspectives and newly-minted hopes in our world just now. Whether it’s political instability at home or abroad, the continuing humanitarian catastrophe of the migrant crisis or the gathering gloom in global economic markets, there is much to make us anxious by day and keep us awake at night. There is much to cause us to be discouraged or even despairing.
However, Kennelly and the lengthening days of spring remind us that there is much more to be said. The poet and the season bring us back to those extraordinary resources that lie within us, and in nature around us. They suggest that the courage and determination we need will come from being attentive – from being mindful both of ourselves and of our surroundings.
“Begin to the loneliness that cannot end / since it perhaps is what makes us begin, / begin to wonder at unknown faces / at crying birds in the sudden rain / at branches stark in the willing sunlight / at seagulls foraging for bread / at couples sharing a sunny secret / alone together while making good.”
Most of all, this time of year draws our attention to that mysterious and unconquerable hope that enlivens the human spirit. So, whether or not you are preparing to celebrate Easter in the next few weeks, may I wish you all the joy and possibility of new beginnings.
“Though we live in a world that dreams of ending / that always seems about to give in / something that will not acknowledge conclusion / insists that we forever begin.”