Every Spring I keep a vigil in hopes of not missing the moment when the fiercely fresh greenness of brand new meadow grass and tender baby leaves on tree and bush shout out “Look at us! Here we come!” When I do notice, its sheer energy and wild enthusiasm never fail to take my breath away, almost as if it was exerting a nearly irresistible gravitational pull urging me to grow too.
I do not doubt that one of the reasons I find it so moving to watch others around me – students, clients, dear friends and family members, even complete strangers – risk growing in full view of others is that I understand what courage it takes to venture the messiness and uncertainty of it all. That recognition is at the heart of my own timid reluctance to grow in public. Even when the gravitational pull is nearly irresistible.
Here is something else I notice. That I tend to be more open to growing when something has broken open, allowing a little daylight. When my efforts to maintain the veneer of business as usual have conspicuously failed, a little wise guy voice inside of me sighs and says “Well, it’s not as if you have anything to lose at this point. You might as well go for it!” It’s almost enough to make me grateful for the breaking.
There are some trees (lodgepole pines and eucalyptus) whose seeds can germinate only after being subjected to fire fierce enough to burn away the resin in which they have been encased until that moment. Other seeds lie in wait for years in desert conditions until microorganisms have sufficiently broken down their hard exterior to allow water and light to work their magic.
Many of you have read the passage in Thoreau’s Walden in which he recalls the remarkable story of a “strong and beautiful bug” that emerged from the dry leaf of an old table made of applewood. The table had for decades sat in a farmer’s kitchen, first in Connecticut and later in Massachusetts. It hatched from an egg laid in the living tree many years earlier, stirred to life perhaps by the heat of urn sitting just long enough on the right spot and was heard gnawing its way out of the table for weeks before emerging.
That’s what it can take sometimes for new life to emerge. Enough heat and a good measure of perseverance.