29 April 2008

perceiving spring

I keep telling myself it is spring, but winter is putting up a terrific fight. It was sunny and warm enough on Saturday that I wore a skirt and short sleeves to the local farmer’s market. This morning, it was chilly glove-wearing weather. The thermometer told an ungenerous truth: 31 degrees (about -0.5 C). The hills around my home were frosted white, the snow level creeping down to elevations too close for comfort. Even still, tree branches are bursting green with lush infant leaves and even the most delicate blossoms are persisting in defiance of the icy temperatures.

I think it is much the same with me. It spite of all indications that it is spring, it feels as though I’ve been sitting through a kind of winter, one that has cast itself over the whole of my interior landscape. The soil is hard and frozen and the air still and cold. Tree branches are all but bare and even if they had any green life to display, there would be no rush of bird’s wings to stir them to motion. I stay inside wrapped a thick knit sweater that hugs my neck. I wrap my stiff fingers around a steaming mug of tea, drawing its fragrant steam in deeply through my nostrils. I watch the motionless landscape in silence.

But it should be spring: the trip to Florida. The body post. The responses. The writer’s conference. The photo shoot.

So why does a chill still hang in the air around me? Why does it seem as though I’m shrouded in winter?

The truth is, I don’t know.

But I do know that it is spring. I can’t describe how, but I know that there is a torrent of activity in the depths of things: beneath the soil, flurries of life in tree trunks and branches, imperceptible from the outside. Mitochondria are hectic with activity, seeds are dying, casting off their shells and becoming something else. Something alive.

It only appears to be still. Do not be mistaken: it is spring.

spring photo by kirsten.michelle


  1. i am so right there with you kirsten, and i couldn't possibly have described my own experience more perfectly and poignantly than you have here. how do you speak my words like this?

    oh, i wish i could hug you right now...a big warm lengthy hug that would push away the unseasonable chill. love you so much. we've never met? that can't be.

  2. hello, my beautiful friend.

    i continue to be amazed at the deft beauty of your words and photographs. as i already shared with you, it would be so fabulous if you could somehow freelance out some of your photography! have you heard of divine caroline? it's an online magazine of sorts written by real women. the design is flawless and the content is amazing. the tone of some of the images i see on there -- the crisp beauty with soul -- remind me of your style.

    but back to the matter at hand: your slow-emerging spring. the turn of this post surprised me and moved me. it made me hurt for you, even though you express faith in growth happening beneath the surface and hope that it will someday emerge. i, too, believe that it will and trust that God is up to good and necessary things inside you. but it can be so confounding and mystifying to endure, and slow, can't it?

    i observe such patience in you through this process. all of you is marvelous to behold, and wonderful.

    love to you in this place, and hugs, and prayer.

    love always,

  3. There is a line in one of Caleb's children's books that I love. I think it fits this situation perfectly.

    "And, it's nice just to know
    that beneath winter's snow,
    the blossoms of spring
    are beginning to grow."

  4. Wow...totally. I've been studying the Bible with a group that focused on the death of Christ and then the resurrection...and I feel like I"m still somewhere in the crucifixion, at least sometimes.

    hugs, hugs, hugs. I want to put my arms around you and chase away the cold.

  5. terri - you are here. i know you are. how can i know that so deeply as viscerally as i do? i just do. it's perhaps just as mysterious as people being so deeply connected who have never met one another.

    hugging you right back. wiping the tear.

    christianne - thank you for your sweet & satiating words, friend. part of this ache in me is broaden the scope of the words i write (& the pictures i take, if that's what He wants) not for reasons of vainglory, but precisely because these things AREN'T from me. i don't know how to describe it; they're coming through me but they're not mine & i ache for others to know the healing truth & grace that God is offering to me & through me.

    but the time for that broadening to happen is not now. and i don't want to botch things up by forcing the birth of something that is not ready to be birthed.

    i am confounded & tired & wondering. asking lots of questions. saying "i don't know" quite a bit.

    love to you, friend. i am so thankful to know deeply that you really get this. you understand.

    rebecca - that is a most apt description!! beneath winter's snow, spring is already set in motion. that is such a poetic & beautiful description. thank you.

    sarah - i thought of you when i realized the turn this post was taking (um yeah, this isn't the direction i intended for it to take when i started writing it). i've been thinking on that death lately, wondering what was going on - REALLY going on - during those three days Jesus was in the ground. He died & that's important. He rose & that's important. but what was happening in between when he was actually dead? was it anything like the season we are experiencing now?

    i don't know the answer to those questions, but i think that's what this feels like: an interim. a neither here nor there-ness to it, but important in itself all the same.

    hugs & love right back to you.

  6. WOW! After I left my first comment, I actually thought, "No, I don't feel like I'm living in "before the crucifixion"...more like, after it, and before he rose again." I'm so much on the same page as you here that it's almost funny ;)

  7. you probably know because of the quiet and stillness..... i think it is through obeying the heart's yearning for that quiet that we can pick up on that almost imperceptible movement of life beginning to stir.

    if we had a noisy heart and mind, we wouldn't be able to hear those first spring stirrings. and then we might lose heart altogether...

    'be still and know' little blooming flower..... :)

  8. that spring...
    she likes to play dress-up sometimes.

    she has a trunk just packed full of disguises and costumes!

  9. The best part about this time is the anticipation. Something's going on, and you know it. When will it bloom? What will the colors be? How long until we can pick the strawberries? The icicles drip, water sliding down the cold fingers. I'm all a twitter!

  10. sarah - oh. my. gosh.

    oh my gosh!!

    so i was reading the chapter on the virgin martyrs again tonight & was totally thinking about that whole in-between thing. there's a thomas merton quote preceding the chapter that talks about "point vierge" (the virgin point) & i still wasn't quite getting it, so naturally i googled it & look at what i found:
    [from this link: http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/resources/miscellaneous_resources/Thresholds.htm]
    "Thresholds of all kinds lie between two modes of being, inside and outside, past and future, sleeping and waking, conscious and unconscious, sacred and profane. The prime liminal moment is the one between sleeping and waking, a time that artists prefer for the access it gives to the unconscious. Thomas Merton understood dawn to be this point vierge, the threshold between darkness and light, between being and nonbeing. He noted carefully the woods and birds at dawn when creation in its innocence asks permission "to be" once again. For humans, the point vierge is the nothingness at our center that belongs entirely to God."

    that's what this is. this is point vierge. the nothingness at our center that belongs entirely to God.

    have i said OH MY GOSH!! yet??

    blue - what a beautiful insight: that the quiet is the very thing that makes those subliminal moments perceptible. beautiful!

    nancy - i was just thinking that spring was a girl: a flirty girl, flitting around barefoot, twirling wildly in all her dresses.

    heather - me too!! i can't wait to see what happens!!!

  11. I guess life does come out of death somehow. Spring preaches that story. Nice post Kirsten. We gotta catch up sometime.

    My net connection has been down since Sunday and i have been breaking out in hives over it. I guess that is what i get for bootlegging, damn those neighbors of mine had to put a security lock on their connection.

    Let me confess how bad of an addict i am. My connection went down on Sunday, i have been bootlegging for months now. I sent Terri an e-mail on Monday morning joking that if my net did not pop up by the end of the day At&t would be getting a hook up call.

    Honey, I did not make it pass 1:00pm and i had At&t on the line. I have abandoned my life of crime, no more bootlegging. On second thought, who am i fooling, i would still be bootlegging but i can't find a connection.

  12. A snapshot in words. Nice shot by the way -- words and pic.

    Spring is my favorite season. I love seeing things come to life.

  13. oh my gosh, that point vierge thing is AMAZING. dang! i'm so stoked that you found and shared that with us. gives all of us more food for thought on this strange season we've all been sitting in, huh?

    [oh, and i had to join the 'oh my gosh' club intentionally there. heh heh.]

    tammy, just a quick note to say that you are hilarious. to say who are you kidding, you would still be bootlegging if you could find a connection -- that made me laugh. but good for you, girl, getting it all hooked up. now you'll enjoy hours and hours more of connection without that extra weight of guilt hanging around your neck.

  14. Wow, Kirsten. (And "Oh my gosh!" just for the heck of it" ;). Your phrase at the end--"the nothingness at our center that belongs entirely to God"--is so much where I am. I'm encountering so much emptiness at the middle of me, and it's scary...like, "Is that all that I really am, God? Am I just a shell? Is the rest false and fake?" But you're right, you know...if there wasn't a vast space in our middles, where would such a big God go?

  15. Christianne
    You are so sweet, yet innocently confused, i didn't say anything about guilt. Of course hours of enjoyment is much more enjoyable when you don't get a bill from it.

    Plus, everything is legal, until you get caught.
    I love you Christianne.

  16. i am so loving this conversation. this "in-betweenness" is striking something in me, like a memory that is hovering just outside my peripheral vision. something is emerging here.

    oh, and tammy, there are a minimum of five people scamming my wireless signal and that's just fine with me. i call it sharing.

  17. you all are cracking me up.

    sarah, christianne, terri - yeah. there's something to this point vierge thing, isn't there? i didn't get why norris used that quote at the beginning of the chapter & the chapter was still powerful without it. but now that i'm understanding more about "point vierge" and what it means ... WOW. it makes that whole holy defiance piece even more powerful.

    i'm with you terri, it's something that is resonating with me deeply.

  18. y'all--definitely something there...terri, I hear you on the "hovering just outside of consciousness" thing.

    And a funny story...Dave and I "shared" wireless from our downstairs neighbors for the first year or so that we lived in our apt. We didn't know it was theirs until we moved out and it disappeared, back in December. In the next 6 weeks, no fewer than 6 new wireless networks, all closed (including ours...fraud scares me) sprang up! The entire community was using their internet ;)

    Seriously, though...I'd be all about sharing...isn't that why it's WIRELESS...so you can get signal farther away? Except for the fraud...watch some episodes of...shoot! I can't remember the name. It's British and they pull a bunch of scams and then tell people how they did it...and now I'm rambling...

    The Real Hustle! That's it. YouTube it.

  19. terri, i didn't realize you could tell that people are hopping on your connection. how did you find that out? does it come on your monthly bill? the only time i would worry about using someone else's wireless connection is if they pay on a monthly basis for a certain amount of coverage . . . meaning, if my using their connection caused them to get a higher bill, without their knowing why their bill was higher, then i would feel real bad.
    but believe me, i have my own fair share of connection hijacking stories, after a year spent living in a place where kirk and i couldn't get a connection setup because it would interfere with the guy's connection where he lived, and we were never able to figure out (with his permission) how to allow us to have access to his. going without an internet connection at home can make people CRAZY! i'm sure glad those days are over. :)

  20. christianne: the only reason i know about them is because we have this gigantic duplex and about a bazillion renters who all use our wireless. they're all young guys who are very trustworthy. i probably should put a password on so others can't scam it and possibly mess up our lives, but i'm kind of lazy that way. :)

  21. i came across this today...

    Were eternity to appear tomorrow, we would be as shocked as I have been with the return of spring this week, only more so. Our practical agnosticism would be revealed. Pascal declared,

    Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection, that we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.

    holding something of eternity as we live each moment and anticipate the next.

    bless you kirsten in this inbetween place.

  22. Kirsten you disguise your winter well. After so many of the conversations that we've had I get off of the phone reflecting on the passion that you have on some of our conversations. "We need a pulpit stat!". I feel like you are more into spring than you might think. You know what the major seeds are that have been planted, you have the Son's warmth to urge them to the surface and He is watering them for you. They have started to blossom!!! Now it's up to you to wholly surrender yourself to the growth. Frightening and exciting at the same time isn't it? It's that first step off of the boat. Peter saw Jesus and knew what He wanted (the seed) but that first step must have been a doosy (I think I spelled that wrong). What a pay off!!!

    I pray that you continue towards this path replacing the fear with faith, "moving to the rhythms of His grace", "wholly surrendering" yourself to Him, hitting your knees and raising your arms because He has a magnificent plan for His beloved daughter. I look forward to watching you spring to life like never before. Just keep saying yes to Him.

    By the way I love the picture.

  23. sarah & christianne - there is something that resonates so deeply in me about this point vierge thing. i hadn't heard of it until i read the merton quote & yet it seems to describe so aptly the season many of us have been walking through (or waiting in, rather).

    the point vierge is a threshold between sleeping & waking, between darkness & light. the nothingness at our center that belongs entirely to God. i suppose we'll find out ... like nathan said, i suppose at some point, we'll really see things come to life.

    di - thank you for sharing that quote. so appropriate for this place we sit in, waiting for God to say the word, to grant permission "to be".

    caleb - i can totally see how someone might think i'm in a spring. you heard my struggle to describe what this season feels like, what it is to me. like my insides are being scoured out with steel wool, like there's a vast & increasing emptiness inside where i used to be and where i'm sitting and waiting. waiting for God to speak the word & for the seed to push out of the ground & come to life, to bloom & by virtue of its being what it is, to spread its own seeds.

  24. encouraging
    to remember
    the things i do not see

  25. That photo is stunning--and a beautiful reminder that spring is really, truly on the way.