Believe it or not, this is the week announcing the return of spring! We are halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and even as I finished shoveling a foot of new snow that fell here in the upper Midwest, I nodded to the week’s celebrations of old Celtic and Christian rituals marking the return of longer days and warmer sunshine. I welcomed the news that the groundhog emerged on a cloudy day and did not run back underground. And, looking ahead to the Chinese New Year, which begins on Monday, I remember reading that it is also known as the Spring Festival.
Spring, it seems, like so many other longed for changes, often happens first in the heart and only later in the world of soil and branch, of bird and birth. When the poet Denise Levertov wrote “so much is in bud,” I believe she was pointing not just to buds already plump on the branch, but turning our attention back even earlier to a world still buried beneath snow, to buds still waiting to emerge, to a season when longing, imagination and hope make their mighty mix inside of us and coax us out of hibernation well before the bud is seen much less burst. (Is this not what justice-seeking work and the building of Beloved Community are all about?)
Perhaps this is what I love about Groundhog Day–the call to emerge, preposterously in my own northern climate, in early February, and to begin searching for promises of spring. Whether the groundhog goes back to sleep or not, it is a reminder to me to wake up to all that is invisibly in bud, in me and in the world. And to warm those buried proleptic buds with every bit of faith and attention I can give them.
What is in bud in your life, in your heart, perhaps still invisibly, awaiting your wakeful attention and intention? Perhaps this season of “pre-spring” is a good time to put pen to page, looking for the not-yet-but-sure-to-come within and all around you.