“Remember the time has come to plow again.” Hesiod, Works and Days
Spring. It’s power never wanes. Once again we experience ourselves, especially in our bodies, as part of some great whole. Things are moving; and we are moved—though we might not know by what or to what end.
It can be scary, even humiliating. The plants, and the birds, and the other animals all around us seem to know just what to do. They commence their spring work and their spring rituals, with no apparent hesitation. It’s as though they have been waiting for the signal, and the signal has been given. Go to it, the time is now!
The human schedule and order of life certainly must, at least in certain ways, stand out from the seasonal rhythms. It’s not as though, for instance, human procreation is simply determined by the seasons, as it is for the plants and other animals.
Yet at the same time, surely we can go too far in setting ourselves apart from the natural rhythms in our bodies and in the world to which our bodies, or rather we, belong. Various technologies and associated practices allow us and indeed encourage us to isolate ourselves from the changes of the seasons—and from what those changes might mean for us.
As the title of his great book Works and Days indicates, Hesiod associates different times of the year with different works. What I find especially enlightening is the basic principle. Life can be lived in awareness and remembrance of the order and rhythms of the natural world; even and perhaps especially a human life. Our participation in something deeper and bigger than ourselves, which also empowers us to be ourselves, is a gift that we might miss, that we might fail to remember.
In the end then, to what is spring moving and calling us? Perhaps first of all as the season that most urgently and obviously reminds us of our participation in a deeper order, it calls us to remember. So already even just to ask ourselves this question is to begin to receive the gift.
And for more specific reflection, the image of the plow can serve us well. It speaks of a host of diverse activities that draw us more deeply into connection with the earth, and with one another, and with ourselves. Spring is for all of us, no matter our situation in life. The time for plowing, of entering more deeply into human life–rooted in a natural order, has come.
Hesiod (8th century B.C.) was a Greek contemporary of Homer, and likewise an epic poet. His Works and Days sketches the year-round work on a homestead.
Image: the Eastern Redbud; one of the glories of the Shenandoah Valley in spring.
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