Mixing Memory and Desire

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire.  –T.S. Eliot

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We’re expecting up to ten inches of wet, slushy snow in the next few days.  How hard it is to face winter again!  In Minnesota, winter gets long and by the time April arrives, we long for—no, we expect—spring to arrive and furnish us with warmer temperatures and lots of color from buds and bulbs.

Aster DaisiesYes, as T.S. Eliot said, April truly is a cruel month, an “in-between” time when the awakened earth stirs, mixing the memory of frozen winter and desire for new life.  We may want to leap immediately from the barrenness of winter into the splendor of summer, when all is green and rich and lush.  But spring reminds us that giving birth is hard, long and messy.

The onset of spring coaxes the earth into early labor, a labor that eventually births new life.  But as with all births, first there is struggle.  The dead, frozen fields of winter thaw slowly, tulips and crocuses crack open the crusty ground, and drenching rains saturate the soil, making the world a wet and muddy mess.

Some of us are midwives to this slow birthing process.  We labor long hours tilling our gardens, smoothing out rock-hard clumps of dirt to make the earth soft, porous, and receptive to life-bearing seeds.   We may think, “It would have been easier if the earth had stayed frozen.”   But spring’s struggle—the mixing of memory and desire—and our own toil as well, create the climate for rebirth.  The passage from death to life is always costly.

This mixing of memory and desire takes place in the soil of our hearts as well.

At times we journey through our own personal wilderness, times of uncertainty, disappointment, or loss.  Upon reflection, we may discover that frozen clumps of earth lie dormant within us: unhealed wounds, bitter resentments, painful losses, disappointing failures.  It would be easy to remain frozen, to suppress our pain, but a deep yearning within beckons us to the hard and messy labor of spring.  We must till our inner soil, mixing memory with desire, to prepare us for new life.

After a few months of some difficult stressors, including the burglary of our home the night before Easter, I am truly ready for spring—and the new life and energy that await me!

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Photo credit: reuseableart.com

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