My mother called the year’s first flowers snow queens. They seem unconcerned about what we name them or whether I see them. They offer their tiny purple to the world, noticed or not. Their silent presence alerts me to look for the first evidence of green buds on deciduous trees, waiting to uncurl leaves still forming. The forest ground becomes softer and warmer in March, though not in a reliable way. Another freeze could still arrive at any moment. One year, our biggest snowstorm was on the first day of spring.
Growth is innate and unstoppable, though. I see no evidence that anyone’s ever attempted to prevent spring. Climate stress is inducing changes, from earlier flowers to dying fir trees, but growth only shifts forms. I know the progression the meadow flowers will still take, through soft waves of purple, yellow and pink. Green grasses will transform the brown. The remaining songbirds will reappear from wherever they wintered. I’ll feel my annual wish to ask them of their travels. I’ll sense my own instinctive stirrings, calling me towards song and soaring.
Spring doesn’t announce its arrival. It merely arrives. It’s not separate from the winter before it, but rooted within it. Spring in turn roots seasons to come, so winter is rooted in spring too, as are summer and fall. All are an inseparable part of one continued cycle of growth. That cycle includes decay, which is also a facet of growth, just as joy has a root in sorrow. Our growth is cyclical too, including our eventual growth into decay.
Gratitude arrives in the same subtle way as spring, and just as intertwined with the darkness. Mine was growing long before it became noticeable, taking root in my deep inner black. Now it begins to tangibly emerge, as silent as the snow queens. Even before dawn, it’s easier for me to rise than it once was, given gratitude as the spirit with which I greet each day. Winter hibernation dissolves into embracing the returning light within. That subtly shifts my interactions with others: I have a bit more kindness; a higher commitment to service; a deeper strength in the softness of my quiet voice. Slowly, I’m growing and healing.
I also notice more gratitude within others. It’s easier to sense in you what I’m attuned to in me. Paying refined attention heightens my recognition of our shared spirit. Becoming actively grateful for you is a natural result of connecting with your grace; of touching into our resonance. My gratitude arrives as wildly as the songbirds, and begins to sing.
Yes, with gratitude as with birds. If we tend to gratitude’s habitat, it thrives. If not, it vanishes. And gratitude’s habitat is the natural beautiful world for which we were born. Returning to gratitude is a return to nature: that wisdom also returns again and again, like dawn, like spring. So each day I rise with the first birds, touching the driftwood on my windowsill, inscribed as it is with our simple key task: Let us be grateful.
Gratitude yet to arrive is already useful now, like next spring is already beautiful. Knowing it’s on its way deepens my embrace of what’s difficult yet transient. It assists me in knowing what shelter to gratefully build, to share in coming storms. Gratitude may take ages to seed and sprout, only emerging in a future when the snow queens still arrive but you and I no longer do. The snow queens remind me to grow instead of worry.