In the dark time of the year.
Between melting and freezing
The soul’s sap quivers.
– T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
There are more famous lines from this poem, but this is the time of sap buckets and lines run between maple trees in New England, so forgive me for straying from the popular. For these are the days of freezing and thawing – a confused mix of awakening and nature turning a cold shoulder on us. A reminder that warmer days are coming but we aren’t there just yet.
And so it is with the vaccine and a pandemic that hasn’t quite finished its business with us, despite casual disregard and letting up of guards. We aren’t quite there, but surely we’re closer. So persevere; for we’ll get through the darkness, together in our isolation.
Eliot wrote Little Gidding during the darkest days of the Blitz, set it aside in dissatisfaction and returned to it again to publish it during slightly brighter days in 1942. Who would ever think of 1942 as brighter days? Someone who lived through the Blitz of 1940-41 I suppose.
So who are we to complain about a turn to colder days just as the sun began to warm us once again? Who are we to complain about wearing a mask for just a bit longer? Are we that precious and self-absorbed? Focus on the brighter days ahead, but stay the course in the meantime.
As the snow and ice retreats for another season, the mud rises to meet our favorite footwear in a cold, gooey grip. The warmest days bring swirls of bugs celebrating their brief dance with life. And we, the comfortable masses, find reasons to complain about the mud and bugs and even the miraculously fast release of vaccines to the world that just seem a bit too slow. For all the joy of thaw, we seem to prefer the angst of freeze.
Spring is upon us, despite it all. The sap flows with each freeze and thaw, and drips slowly into buckets. Drop by drop, the buckets fill. It’s the only way, really. You can’t very well cut the tree in half to pour out the sap. Not if you hope to have another season anyway. No, progress is slow that way. And offers lessons in patience and perseverance. Of going with the flow and staying the course.