Clerk's Message May 2004

On my long commute to work over the past few years, I have found the unfolding of the seasons particularly delightful.

As each plant and animal senses that the harsh cold winter is over, it begins its personal celebration of spring.

Some can barely wait for spring, and begin their celebrations very early. Every year I watch the race between the robins and a pair of mallard ducks that live in our pond to be the first to return from their winter haven. It is rare that February begins before I see one or the other.

Not much later, I notice sprigs of green poking through the snow. The flowers of the snow blossom that soon appear are so tiny and so white that I have to look closely, or I miss them entirely.

Following in their footsteps are the daffodils and the hyacinths. The daffodils seem to have a special protection against the snow that inevitably covers them several times before their buds open in a glorious field that contains every shade of yellow imaginable. The perennially optimistic hyacinths somehow lack the protection the daffodils seem to have, but come up anyway – perhaps nudged by their hardier daffodil neighbors with whom they are often intermingled. They pop up early every year, and every year some of their fragrant buds are frostbitten, but every year they repeat the same routine – none the wiser for this year’s experience.

About this time, the goldfinch seems to need to compete with the daffodils, shedding their khaki drab for a brilliant yellow proclamation of spring.

Next comes an almost overwhelming parade of red buds, cherry, crabapples, tulips and lilacs, each certain that spring now is fully entrenched.

Once the parade has past, the sedate locusts and chestnuts drape the roadsides in white, almost daring snowy winter to return. Not to be outdone, the meadows fill up with patches of white and purple phlox.

Througout it all, the evergreens stand watch, sending out tender shoots of green as their sole acknowledgement of the change in seasons.

I have been driving this route for 4 years now, and have grown accustomed to the scenery. I silently encourage the daffodils planted around the feet of mailboxes along the road to bloom, and know which ones will bloom first, although I do not know why. I eagerly await the redbuds around a particular bend on the drive, and the chestnut that welcomes me as I arrive at work. I keep a collection of its nuts on my desk at work – at least one for every year I have worked there.

This year, along with the noisy celebration I have noticed subtle differences from last spring. Some are welcome. There is a particularly showy field of phlox as I round the bend to the highway. Because it is sheltered by a stand of trees, it seems to appear out of nowhere. Where did it come from? Why did it appear this year? How can it be encouraged to return next year?

Others make me wonder – why is field of tulips that was burgundy and navy last year peach and cream this year? What happened to the others – are they tended carefully elsewhere?

Others cause me concern. A particularly dogwood that is normally so loaded with blossoms that its branches can scarcely bear the weight has only one or two blossoms this year. A crabapple appears to have died. Had the crabapple just lived a long and happy life that has now come to an end? Does the dogwood need something that it had before, but is now lacking? Did it have a caretaker that can no longer tend to it?

It feels to me as if our meeting is emerging from a winter. We have struggled over the last few years, but I see much celebration and rejuvenation this year. Members who have returned after a long absence, members who are more regularly participating or who are taking on new roles. New attenders who come, and stay. It feels like a long awaited and welcome new growth.

I am also noticing more subtle changes, as well. Members who have disappeared, or whose participation has become less regular or enthusiastic.

I am mindful that I need to avoid becoming so lost in the celebration that I fail to pay attention to those around me for whom spring has not yet fully arrived, or for whom it is their first spring in this location, and to consider whether there are things I can or should be doing to make the invitation to celebrate our corporate renewal and regrowth more welcoming.