Winter wore out its welcome early this year. It wasn't hard; it was inconsistent, alternating days that seemed almost warm with cold snaps. It rarely redeemed itself with large, wet, fluffy flakes that coated everything in a snowy wonderland.
Through most of the winter there were teases of spring. On Capitol Hill it was possible to see a sprig of bright yellow forsythia buds in my old neighborhood and bright dandelions peeping through a light dusting of snow. While the Midwest and East Coast were being whipped with blizzard-force winds blowing sharp ice crystals across people's faces, in Washington we could walk on clear sidewalks, the snow melting almost instantly on the city's heat-holding bricks.
Watching the evening news tempered my mood, though. I saw pictures of those coping with tornadoes, heard the despair of homeowners surveying the damage. People were confined by paralyzing snowfalls. I felt weary from the bleakness and harshness of wintry weather.
But then daylight began to lengthen. February, the shortest (and longest) month of the year, ended. I welcomed March like a favorite aunt who would breeze into town, energizing all around her.
I've even been able to get out into my garden. This spring will be my first in a new part of Washington, D.C. -- my first garden here, mine to shape. Working the earth, planting seeds, pulling weeds and digging holes for baby plants that hold a future of blooms and blossoms invigorates me. It simultaneously humbles and elevates me.
I love the smell of the earth. I understand why farmers stick with the land. As unpredictable as nature always has been through the centuries -- no one's guaranteed a rose garden -- there's nothing so relaxing as cultivating and tending to growing things. Gardening connects me with a life force that is inherently good.
I learn from my garden. It's taught me that nature is tenacious. Mother Nature can find a crack in concrete and grow a three-foot-tall plant with purple flowers that eventually fractures that concrete into pieces -- if you have a couple hundred years. My garden has also taught me that nature is fragile; a sudden frost can kill its babies. Yet, it'll start over again.
I sometimes think of Hawaii, where I love spending an occasional vacation for a steal-away week. Yet I love Louisiana and Washington just as much. I wouldn't know what to do without the turning of the seasons. When fall comes, there's an anticipation of change -- turning leaves and cooling days, crunching leaves and gathering flocks. Winter, on the other hand, causes me to hibernate: slippers and robe and hot cocoa and Christmas lights to view through the windowpane as I nod off over a book.
But, spring! Spring revives me. I strive to be a good Catholic; it's very much a part of me. It is certainly true that my faith resonates with the emerging life of spring. With spring comes Easter, and for many of my friends, Passover and Seder.
Both religious observances are celebrations of salvation and renewed, reborn life. Yes, New Year's Day holds the excitement of beginning anew. However, in my case, New Year's resolutions seem to get thrown out with the Christmas wrappings.
Spring is an actual renewal of life. I can still see the black and gray of bare limbs, but I also notice a fuzzy coating of green. Stretches of bare concrete are now covered again with outdoor cafes, even if people sit at the tables in coats. Brown grass is turning light green; city flower beds are showing pansies, cabbages and green sprouts that will be tulips. It all fits so perfectly with Easter.
As a Catholic, I've been given the blessing of a new pope, a man who is committed to the poor, who has washed and kissed the feet of the sick, and who is emphasizing service and humility. He's setting an example. I've had a long, barren winter of discontent. I've watched an ebbing of Americans' compassion for the poor. Now, this spring, this religious holiday, rejuvenates my hope for our country.
The hard times of the Great Depression brought out country together. People helped one another because we were all in the same soup together. I've seen some of that Spirit during this Great Recession. Now, our Great Recession is ending, according to the economists who are actually agreeing for once. And with an ending comes a beginning.
Spiritual forces, such as humility, are powerful. Like the seed in the sidewalk crack, they hold on and grow. Today I see the promise of the American "can-do" spirit that clung on during the long, hard years of the recession, bursting into bloom. I see a renewing of our national values, a resurgence of compassion for the poor, a reviving of our American dream; working together regardless of differences for our common good.
I love spring. I love this spring especially. It's bringing hope reborn.
© 2013, United Features Syndicate