Three years ago this week, David and I retreated to the north shore of Lake Superior in early March. It was his spring break and we’d decided to buck the trend of going south, instead embracing the last remnants of winter by bundling up for a few blue-sky days of subzero sunshine.
Outside our window, just 15-feet away, the waves of Lake Superior carried their frozen flotsam, sheets of ice washed up against the shore and breaking into shards of all sizes, sharp edged jewels catching the sunlight in a dazzling display. Inside, we added wood to the fire and were warmed and entranced by the flames. We were well-poised to honor the month of March and its dance between warmth and deep freeze, between winter and spring’s imminent thaw, between darkness and light sharing the time with near-equinox equity.
It was also, for us that year, a pause balanced between what we knew was passing away and what we did not know that awaited us. The week before, I had received a diagnosis of breast cancer and my father, my last surviving parent, had just entered hospice. Our old ways of being were breaking up in sharp and difficult ways. New life was not yet visible, but the days offered a surprising display of sunlight bouncing from the broken shards, and nighttime brought the soft orb of a full moon rising over the lake, offering a shimmering silver path to shores unseen.
March has always been, in my home in the upper Midwest, seasonally positioned between winter’s breaking open and spring’s promised arrival not yet visible. Now, three years after that aptly named spring break on Lake Superior, I realize this month also carries for me a heightened awareness of what is breaking up — old identities, assumptions and ways of being — and the uncertainty, not knowing what will follow.
Today, cancer-free and approaching the third anniversary of my father’s death, the month of March calls me to remember that the uncertainty, loss and grief arriving with brokenness also carry with them possibilities often unseen. That life’s seasons are not a straight line from birth to death but a cycle in which birth and death continually revolve, creating a larger wholeness, trustworthy over time. The promises of a new season sometimes await us in the most surprising times and places.
In this month of March, wherever you are and however the seasons may be turning in the natural world or in your life, what is breaking up or breaking open? If you pause on this cusp between what you know is passing away and what you do not yet know that awaits you, where are you aware of brokenness and how does the light, by day and night, shine on it? What paths into the unknown future are shimmering, calling for your attention?