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Commentary: I wonder - Reflections prompted by Spring

Sue Scott
courtesy photo

Maybe like me, you find yourself noticing the chirping of birds, the emergence of color as daffodils bloom, and the warmth of the sun. At the same time, there are damaging winds, the clap of thunder, and a deluge of rain. As we welcome spring, it reflects the paradox we often find in our daily lives.

The author Katherine May writes in her book Wintering how there are times in our life when we need to be fallow, a time for quiet, unseen rejuvenation. Her recent book, Enchantment portrays wonder as hidden in plain sight and gently nudging us to be consumed by it without hesitation. During the COVID years, both of her books have rung true with many. In her books, May relies on her experiences in nature to seek understanding.

I’m a passionate gardener who experiences profound joy when seedlings emerge from the soil. Yet this experience is inseparable from knowing that the plant, in a matter of months, needs to lie fallow again until next year.

Some experiences evade understanding and simply evoke wonder. Witnessing my mother’s death from Alzheimer's was one that, even as I looked to nature, I still struggled to find insights or explanations. It was not about losing her-we had experienced that in degrees for over ten years. But it was the visible struggle of her body to live. As a vibrant and vivacious person, I expected no less from her. Yet the conflict between her desire to live and the inability of her body to continue was overwhelming to me. I could not change or take away her battle -it was hers alone to fight and lose.

So, I returned to my garden with Katherine May’s words echoing in my mind. Her words remind me that what becomes valuable is what we value and meaningful, what we invest with meaning.

This seemingly simple statement suggests a complex follow-up question. How do we show or give value to someone? A gardener knows plants need tending, watering, feeding, and sometimes cutting back. I began to think that a gardener's diligent care illustrates how value and meaning are invested in relationships.

My mother invested in our relationship by simply being there for me. She was there for countless band concerts, too many third-floor walk-up apartments to move into, and weekly phone calls on Sunday nights. Because we cultivated our relationship, I can find meaning in these experiences even after her death. Our walking together in all seasons of our lives reflected the wonder of the bond we created as a mother and a daughter.

So, for now, I’m letting spring enchant me with the smallest of plants emerging from the ground, delighting in the birds who seem to be having a dance party in the hedgerow. I am bringing back the practice of hiding under the blankets when the thunder claps to be safe from the boogie man. And to be grateful for a mother who taught me wonder is not given to us but a daily desire to find enchantment in the workings of the world.

The quality of our experiences together shaped my understanding of what it means to be human in every season.

Sue Scott is Director of the Western Illinois Museum in Macomb.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse opinions are welcomed and encouraged.