On this, the second warm day in a row in the second week of April, we are assured that spring, at long last, has arrived. I’ve removed the tree tape from the red maple sapling and have treated the buck rub wounds with pruning spray in hopes that the deer will find some other place to scratch their backs. The forsythia, oaks, maples, and black cherries are in bud, though the ash and honeysuckle linger in their winter husks awhile longer. Crocuses, daffodils, and bluebells are in bloom, and a breath of spring is felt on the warm, gentle breeze.
My thoughts turn now to treating the lawn once again. In years gone by I’d work the length of the yard—front, sides, and back—row after row of raking, cutting, seeding, and fertilizing, but now I have the luxury of hiring a landscaper to manage those chores. It is a blessing, surely. Yet I notice once again the shifting contours of the back lawn, a phenomenon that would astound me every year as the grip of winter yielded to the softening spring. Amid the yard that I had come to know so intimately—an outcrop of rock to the right of the hemlock, a bit of thatch here, some moss there, bare patches where I’d cut back the pachysandra, a deep green swath of grass over the septic fields—I’d see some subtle changes in the topography of the yard. It was as if the rocks underground were shifting in silent seismic undulations so that the landscape formed a new and different terrain. Where once had been a little rise, the lawn lay level now; where once a gentle rolling slope, a little knoll appeared; and there, where the rain would puddle in a furrow beside the silver maple, it rolled down the hill toward my neighbor’s yard.
What are we to make of such reshaping of the earth, such shifting of the landscape every year? Perhaps it's a metaphor of all that changes in Nature from season to season, all that shifts silently, subtly, but certainly from year to year. The trees are imperceptibly taller each spring, some sturdier, some feebler, others more mottled with lichens or blight. Perennial plants nudge their way through the soil reaching toward the sun, bloom for the season, then fade and die. Annuals flourish in kaleidoscopic glory until, exhausted, they spend themselves or succumb to the cool nights of an approaching autumn. The lawns too have their cycles, from the lush greens of a wet spring to the dry and brittle browns of the midsummer heat or the hibernation of late fall and winter. Often we celebrate the joys that the season has to offer, but perhaps more often we take them for granted, hardly noticing the changes as they come to pass.
It is like that, I think, with us too, in the subtle silent shifting of our own lives from year to year. Oh sure, we live intensely all the seasons, knowing full well “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” But we barely notice the seasons of our lives passing, hardly notice most of the changes until they have come to pass. How could it be that we are ten years out of college now? Or twenty? Or forty? When did our little boys grow to be such fine young men? How is it that my wife and I approach our 42nd wedding anniversary this year? When, along the way, did my beard become more gray than brown, and my joints begin to ache? It all happened so quickly, it seems. "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans," John Lennon told us. Perhaps we were too busy living our lives to listen. And so, in the fullness of time, we grow a little older and a little wiser. Unlike the trees, we tend to stoop a little more as the years proceed. But like the lawn, trees, and flowers that keep growing anew each spring, we too greet the next season as it comes, changing subtly as need be, but reaching—always reaching—toward the promise of the sun.