"beneath the snow
beneath the dew
a seed planted in autumn
is growing through
a tiny leaf
below the grass
hasn’t had a chance
to be proven both
strong and true
within my heart
deep in my soul
a fire was started in winter
that cuts through the cold
a tiny flame
below the ice
hasn’t had a chance
to be proven both
strong and bold"
~ Vector, Watch Over Me, and I’ll Watch Over You
Early signs of spring, as the increasingly brighter light combines with bracing air and freezing temperatures, call to mind how struggle and transformation exist alongside each other. I can see how tiring the long winter has been for so many of us, and now there are tangible signs for us all to experience a general sense of catharsis. The sidewalks can almost all be trodden with normal and careless strides. During today’s mid-morning coffee break, a bit more weary than usual for a day so new, I remembered the all-nighters I’d work at my studio. Sunrises following sleepless vigils of hard work evoke the reprieving solace of late winter’s early thaw. The relief is not immediate, but its evidence is convincing. Beneath the frozen surface is promise, and even if the melting outer layers reveal last October’s dried leaves, its fullness is a harbinger of newness. Dormant life manifests from within the weakened crust that remains from past seasons- both physical and those of the heart.
Today, I remembered the fresh-start gesture of the New Year’s revelers who set a huge paper-shredder out on a sidewalk and invited the public to destroy written references to their regrets and misgivings. Though symbolic, the action represents a definitive discarding of the uninvited past. Now, fatigue, along with the scarcity of reflective time, makes for labored steps, it is still possible for me to see how lengthened light outpaces what has become irrelevance from past days. As with discarded words and directions, modest forays can set profound changes into motion. This time of the year provides us with images that attest to the mystery of renewal. Though exerted, the desire to recommence anew gives way for us to emerge from the shedding cloak of winter. Trust is at hand, and the day’s change from yesterday’s rhythm fuels a forward movement.
As natural elements change before us- and around us, these physical signs represent the mystery of transformation. The transition is gradual, and always recognizable. For me, this fascinating imagery becomes as sacred iconography, revealing otherwise concealed insights. Icons are often compared to windows, as the image subjects themselves have multiple levels, and like a window frame we can see through encompassing images into still more motifs. Further, as with photography, more careful observation reveals subtleties that are ordinarily hidden from passing glances. With our contemplative sense of sight, we can observe the questions we provisionally live with.
"Est autem fides sperandorum substantia,
rerum argumentum non apparentium."
These words of Paul, addressed to my ancestors the Mediterranean Hebrews (11:1), came to mind today, while pondering how we can comprehend through our inner stirrings. Surely, his poetic statement about the wonder of trust speaks across all generations and peoples. The context for so wondrous a definition of faith, "the substance of things hoped for, and the certainty of what we do not see," or what is not readily apparent, comes during a discourse about perseverance. We can all be patient to a degree, and amidst hardships, it can run thin. His paragraphs point to those lives have embodied steadfast trust. The Latin offers some vivid imagery: imagine a substantive argument for the unapparent. The words lend themselves, and our thoughts, to the essence of trust- as a cultivated gift of being able to interpret what is not concretely evident. Rather, this is the ability of perceiving the world, creation, the lives around ourselves, and events through eyes sensitized by faith.
By looking again at the long journey as the destination, while the months of tarnish melt away from the ground beneath me, levels and layers of raw, unflourished ground appear. In this season, it’s as though the earth has been sanded down to a surface that cannot be seen through autumn’s colors and summer’s density- or the deep snow, for that matter. March’s thin veneer brings to mind how real are the layered substrata we walk upon. Being mindful of what abides beyond the surface parallels a personal examination of conscience. The burgeoning season brings me to new vantage points, and indeed changed perspectives. Subtle modifications in living are indeed quiet changes, and though unlike pronounced crises, evolving perspectives are no of less effort. And beneath the surface is mystery, unknowing- yet fascinating and consoling. Renewal is a wonder, because it astonishes me to see how freshly we can start over and again- especially without the jadedness of what must melt away. Truly, a fresh start is one that is unfettered by cynicism and liberated from condemning.
If I am really living ever-renewing days, what changes have emerged from the depths of the surface? Being revivified means to live differently. For the past couple of weeks, my handwritten journal has been speckled with pencilled jots inquiring about what has changed. I’d try the question at different times of the day- alas always during fleeting breaks from work. Indeed, since the nature of reflective journaling is an evolving format, we can explore and revisit concepts, allowing them to develop. If we began with presumed conclusions, it would defeat the dynamism of the process. Contemplatives, in this culture, have to steer around society’s obsessions built around controlling outcomes. These days in reflection, I am only now realizing through conscious writing and reading, we can be the incarnation of our learning. Manifesting what one learns about, corresponds with how perception influences what we see and how we interpret the signs and images in our lives. Momentarily, the specifics of my own renewal are still elusive and, so far, can be articulated as changes in perception. A general, intuitive change in how I perceive, both what is living and what is non-sentient. Spiritual growth, or development, unfolds mysteries we can recognize, but it also seems there are always concealed truths we become aware of in a beautifully unspoken way. Continuing on, with just enough of what attests to a confidence unseen, may be considered an undramatic change. But gradual transformation is indeed silently noticeable- and perceptible in both our thoughts and how we communicate. Perhaps it suffices, even momentarily, to assert there has been a sea-change. Even amidst intense road weariness, I am certain of the voyage- with all its required rigors and the grace each stage of the journey offers.