Despite groundhogs and robins: Spring is coming

With the especially harsh winter weather this year, we must remember that “Spring is Coming!”

This year February 2, Groundhog Day, slipped past without much recognition of the celebrated day that offers a prediction of the coming spring. According to tradition, if the furry critter sees his shadow and emerges from his burrow, we are in store for 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t and retreats into his dwelling, the weather forecast is for milder weather in the interim. Since 1886 the celebration of Groundhog Day on a grand scale has been associated with western Pennsylvania, the home of the legendary Punxsutawney Phil, the famed rodent. As it turned out, Punxsutawney Phil did behold his shadow this year, indicating a forecast of 6 more week of cold weather although other groundhogs around the world provided opposing predictions of a short winter.

Whether our furry friend sees his shadow or not, we are assured that after winter still comes the spring. Indeed, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? We can also be certain that in the midst of the most severe winter, a touch of which we have experience this year, growth still takes places. Tiny buds appear and lay dormant until spring’s warm rays stimulate the surging green we long to see. Here is a reminder that life goes on:

Even in Winter

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Psalm 1:3

Mournful dark notes of the wind’s contralto solo
Pierce the heart and chill the soul with its somber tones.
Shrouded in widow’s weeds all of creation groans,
Bemoans winter’s wilderness, lifeless and hollow.
Tall stark naked trees where nothing appears to grow
Bend in the wind, vacant lodges closed for the season.
To find life in this dead time seems beyond reason,
Yet tender buds sleep in blankets of ice and snow.
Though leaves once green have faded, fallen to frostbite,
Leaf buds cluster in secret places to keep warm;
Buds wrapped in snow are stronger than before the storm.
Soon the voice of the bridegroom will ring in the night.
The time nears when the turtledove returns to sing,
When ice-covered buds will blossom: firstfruits of spring.

Another traditional sign of the coming of Spring, is the sighting of robins on the Northern landscape. On January 31, 2018 two separate sightings of robins were noted in North Carolina, a sure sign that Spring is on the way, so I thought. When I see robins returning after a brief absence, I recall that I made my acting debut in the second or third grade when I played “Robin Redbreast,” with my red sweater and brown paper wings that I flapped vigorously as I ran across the stage proclaiming, “Spring is coming! . . . Spring is coming! . . . Spring is coming!”

Robins are generally thought to be a sign that “Spring is coming!”

A few years ago my daughter, Melissa, sent me a card with the “Easter Legend of the Robin” on the cover:

A little grey robin, as he was flying to the Holy Land, saw Christ hanging on the cross. His heart filled with sadness. He noticed the crown of thorns the soldiers placed on the crucified Savior. The small bird, forgetting his timidity, flew down to remove a thorn from the brow of Christ. As he did so, a drop of Christ’s blood stained the little bird’s breast. The robin, through his act of love, earned the red badge of courage.

From this time forth, all robins have had red breasts as reminder that one of them was kind to the Lord. Thus, the robin is truly the harbinger of spring. He welcomes Easter with his cheerful note of hope, reminding us that from death comes life.

In reflecting upon my acting debut, I composed a new song that I sing when I see a robin returning in winter:

Red Robin, Red Robin—Harbinger of Spring,
Rear back with your red breast
And sing, sing, sing.

Here is a poem originally written in anticipation of one of my favorite seasons:

Until Spring

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption,
and this mortal has put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death,
where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?

I Corinthians 15:54-55

 

Whether on earth or shuttled in the sky,

Death snuffs out our candles in devious ways,

For each man must learn to number his days,

Although the soul still probes to fathom why.

The mind made numb with pain can only try

To make sense of the immense ache that stays.

The answer sounds since Adam but still dismays:

It is appointed unto man once to die.

Though grief surrounds us, comfort can be shown.

The sun melts frost with new life as surely

As blossoms will flourish from seeds once sown

Until Spring, on tip-toe I yearn to see

The day when I shall know as I am known,

When death is swallowed up in victory.

 

Despite predictions for more harsh winter weather or when we are blessed with unseasonably mild temperatures, we remember the words of Robin Redbreast, and enjoy this magnificent rendering of Steven Curtis Chapman’s exquisite musical composition, a reminder that, indeed, “Spring is coming!”

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