The equinox, known as Ostara, is March 20th, marks the official beginning of spring. Lent, the 40 days of prayer and fasting, began March 6th. Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th, invites us to celebrate the greening of the earth in the northern hemisphere. A mowing and planting season is underway in my southern state, and even in the colder north where I grew up, signs of spring are poking through the still cold dirt. It is the season of love (In the spring a young man’s fancy…), fertility, growth, and renewal. Spring is early this year, with a good head start long before the equinox. My lawn needed its first mowing in late February.
Beneath this blooming spring is a fragility that re-emerges in the fall and lasts through the winter months. All life is fragile, tentative. And so is the earth, not the seemingly endless resource that generations of humans believed it to be. Earth may continue, but life on earth is much more vulnerable. We see the effects of climate change, the accelerated loss of species and wildlife habitat, the battle over access to clean potable water, the increased migration of refugees from human destruction, the growth of militant nationalism, and the loss of arable land as symptoms of an underlying illness.
It is too easy to shrug our shoulders and say, what can I do, what can one person do? Or as Louis XIV said, Apres moi, la deluge—for which he took no responsibility, leaving his grandson to face the guillotine. But while none of us can save the earth single-handedly, we can do our small part. The more affluent we are, the more power we have to play a bigger part. We can begin with all the things we have been told would slow the process of destruction—eat less meat, grow more vegetables, stop using pesticides that kill bees, consume less energy, walk more. Practicing those small acts of reverence toward mother earth can feed a movement from despair to hope. But no one can do it alone. We can join with others to share ideas, to spread the practice of reverence, and to change laws and policies from local land use to some of the elements of the Green New Deal.
The motto of my adopted state of South Carolina is dum spiro, spero–while I breathe, I hope. Hope does not guarantee success, but lack of hope does guarantee failure. Let us celebrate the coming of spring as a renewal of the three central Christian virtues of hope, faith, and love—hope for a future for our grandchildren, faith in the power to make change, and love for our mother earth.