A funny thing always happens to me when the winter blows away and my garden starts to show signs of new life. Seems that most everyone has, at some point, had some wisdom to share about spring; some picture to draw for us about this glorious time of year when the winter (of earth/body/soul) melts away and is replaced by what I can only think of as pure promise. Robin Williams says that spring is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s party!‘ In a somewhat more esoteric way, Sitting Bull said: “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” The artist William Alexander gives us this prayer: “Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.” Yes – it’s spring – and much like the plants in my garden, I’m feeling the earth beneath me, the sun on my shoulders, and the strength of growth.
When I retired – nearly 4 years ago – I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the years ahead would be. Then I realized that not working was more than just not going to work; it was a call to redefine myself, to think of myself as more than someone who did a job and worked hard. That’s not an easy process for many of us. We’ve been taught so well to value ourselves in direct relation to our income. If I work, and I earn lots of money, I have value. But it’s more than that. Much more! Somehow, in our culture, our fundamental value as human beings is tied up with “putting in a hard day’s work”. I’ve learned, over the past few years, that work is not the same as employment. I still “go to work” every day. It isn’t at a job though, and most of the time it doesn’t involve payment. What has changed so much is that today I am finally able to work in ways that are consistent with what I believe, what I have to offer, and what I think will make the most difference. I do this through volunteer work and I do this through singing and I do this through spreading a smile wherever I go. I do this with my friends, and my family, and with my beloved David. I do this with people whose names I don’t know and who I’ll likely not remember. I do this work with love and joy and commitment. Sometimes I’m even paid in cash for this work. What matters, though, is not the value (in $$) that comes to me through the work that I do; what matters is that it is my values that I am working at. Always I’m paid handsomely in the smiles that come back to me, the love that I feel around me, the flash of relief and recognition in the eyes of another human being struggling with their own day, and the sense of peacefulness that I carry with me.
The philosopher and poet Santayana said that “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” As I sit here writing this today I am in a happier state of mind that I’ve felt for quite some time, and clearly I’m in love with spring, with life, and with a new beginning.