“It might seem to you that living in the woods on a riverbank would remove you from the modern world. But not if the river is navigable, as ours is. On pretty weekends in the summer, this riverbank is the very verge of the modern world. It is a seat in the front row, you might say. On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.
This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river. The people are in an emergency to relax. They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature. They go very fast in their boats. They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee. They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors. They look neither left nor right. They don’t slow down for – or maybe even see – an old man in a rowboat raising his lines…”
~ Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
Two teachers living together are bound to consider the curriculum offered by life and its seasons. The word curriculum comes from the Latin currere, to course or flow, as a river does. This year’s lessons, though, have seemed a bit jangly and disorienting: it’s felt like one moment we were canoeing the placid waters and the next we were frenetically whitewater rafting, hanging on, tightly…
The wind has been blustery and for days has sailed in from the south, knocking the normally peaceful wind chimes silly. Their crazed tintinnabulation has sounded through our waking hours and dreams this past week, blurring the lines between real and reverie, and contributing a sense of the fantastical to our perceptions. We’ve noticed our own restlessness more vividly this spring and have been exploring together what the winds and bells and our dreams are calling forth in our hearts. Initially, we felt the need to “get away,” which I think was more a response to this spring’s rush of sudden and powerful energy than a literal need to leave our home (although we’re both grateful the wind is turning).
Restlessness is a natural response to spring. I think if we can note it, be present to it, and allow it to flow through our being, it will give birth in its own time to the green possibilities our spirits crave. The tendencies to fix, name, flee, or rush to answers are more culturally stimulated than of our essence, it seems to me; they can be brushed away gently, clearing an inner space to wait and listen in readiness, but it is challenging.
Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century woman of talent, intelligence, and spiritual energy, often used the term “viriditas” to describe this greening force that moves through us and leads to deeper awareness of the Sacred. Viriditas seems an uprising of our authentic urges to create and flourish. I think of it as our spiritual sap, and, for me, it’s certainly most perceptible in spring.
But up-rushing energy, especially at this year’s velocity, can be unsettling. The usual and gentle shift from winter to spring eluded us; we’ve been jolted awake by light, and heat, and wind, and bells. The viriditas rose from zero to 1000, like someone bludgeoning the high striker at a state fair: BANG, the puck flew up and hit the bell in one stroke.
We’ve noticed this in ourselves and in the early and high volume of those traveling the bike trail and river these past few weekends. I sit on the deck and observe from my “seat in the front row,” as the character Jayber Crow states. Certainly, some bikers and boaters seem to be “in synch” with an authentic flow, and their energy appears and feels peaceful as they travel along, but I also see a lot of those Crow describes as being “in an emergency to relax.” They rush along, not seeing, peddling and paddling furiously, “resting from their work.”
I feel the need to send a blessing their way: May they slow down, all the way down, and hear their own song, and may it bring them peace…They remind me to pay attention to my own level of energy and the ways this “suddenness of spring” excites and invites not just joy, but anxiety, fatigue, and confusion, unless I take time to shake it off and return to my center. I’m trying to minimize the caffeine and sugar, take short naps, allow for mini-meditation breaks, lessen the need to “clear the day’s list,” and just sit and watch the willows dance.
As another wise woman, Julian of Norwich, told us:
All shall be well, And all shall be well, And all manner of thing shall be well…
Learning is compounded, or can be, as the journey flows onward and the circle spirals, in and out. The trick, perhaps, is not to hang on tightly, but to let go and trust that peace is at the center and the impulse of every living system is equilibrium; all shall be well.