Recently I was reading the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee.
“The Japanese are particularly good at creating moments of anticipation. Instead of having only four seasons to look forward to, they have seventy-two. The ancient Japanese calendar divides the year into a series of micro seasons, each only four or five days in length, with names that capture small changes in the surrounding environment. Hibernating Creatures Open Their Doors marks the tail end of winter, followed a bit later by Leaf Insects Turn into Butterflies. In June, the Plums Turn Yellow, and in October the Geese Arrive and the Grasshopper Sings. The names made me think of other seasonal moments that naturally seem to stir feelings of renewal: the whiteout blanket of the first snowfall, the hard drenching of an April rain, the blush of sunrise, and the golden glow of a harvest moon. There is a joy in the first day cold enough to light a fire in the fireplace, the first one warm enough to go outside without a jacket, and the first blinking of fireflies in the summer yard. By building excitement for these subtle transitions, we can invite more cyclical-anticipation into our lives.”
I haven't identified seventy-two seasons here in Haiti, but there are many. We have some plants that bloom all year round, like bougainvillea and hibiscus, but many others take turns. Right now the African tulip trees and the frangipani (plumeria) are gorgeous, and soon the flamboyant (poinciana) will cover the city in red.
It's not just nature, it's the way people react to it, like this season's kites in response to the windy weather. Easter weekend is traditionally the biggest kite-flying time of the year.
But the best renewal every year is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. After the contemplative weeks of Lent, the lament and self-denial, Easter comes with delight, reminding us that death is not the end. Here's a Jonathan Martin quote I found last year: "The sense of foreboding can be trusted -- a faithful witness to Good Friday. It doesn't feel like everything will be okay, cause it won't be. The message of Good Friday is that things aren't going to end well -- things just end. Violence will always run its course, hope bloodied. The message of Good Friday is that death has the last word, on all of us. The message of Easter is that the last word isn't the final one. Easter doesn't lie to us, doesn't say our own stories won't reach dark ends. Only that our dark ends won't be Love's end, God's end. On Good Friday we remember that death is an inescapable cold, hard fact. On Easter we remember that the mere facts may not yet be the story. Death is reality, just not the ultimate one. Easter is the proclamation that even death must bow, to possibility."
Three weeks from today is Maundy Thursday; three weeks from tomorrow is Good Friday; then the waiting of Saturday and the rejoicing of Sunday.
Here's Jonathan Martin again, this time from How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is On the Way and Love is Already Here: "In whatever remains in you that wants to create, to make, to birth something new, in whatever corner that longs for some kind of resurrection on the other side of death, something divine quietly snaps, fires, clicks, flickers. This is the Spirit of God, lurking in your own broken spirit."
Welcome, renewal! Welcome, again and again! I long again for Easter, for Jesus leaving the tomb empty.
Be sure to visit Dani's blog to see what others have to say about this month's topic!