I have always felt most at peace outdoors–more alive, more complete—and followed that pursuit into a professional career. As a trained ecologist, I have spent a large portion of my life studying, observing, and teaching others about the life cycles of plants and animals. Whether it is the voyage from veliger to spat to full-grown oyster or the movement from spider-like larvae to adult dragonfly, I am always on the lookout for those little details and take notice when they occur. Most interesting to me is how those life stages interact with one another and the broader world to form the complex ecosystems of which we are part.
Of course, I love seeing the changing phases of life in my own family, too. It seems like moments ago that my children were toddlers, that I was wrestling them into their Easter clothes over diapers and packing extra snacks to make it through the church service. Now, the rituals and signs of young adulthood sit heavily upon my heart while watching our son lead the procession as an acolyte, or seeing our daughter take the hands of the younger ones coming up behind her in children’s chapel. Changes and transitions in life are never easy, but are the path to growth and a deeper joy.
One of the beautiful traditions of the Episcopal Church is its color-coded seasons—a constant reminder of the cycles in our own lives. We move from the birth of Jesus at Christmas to his death on Good Friday, all the while thinking of the hardships and celebrations in between. On Good Friday, we look at death, up close and personally, and two days later, we celebrate life—a new and unending life in a new and perfect body.
These themes of spiritual renewal and the natural world have followed me all my life. As a little girl, I clearly recall my grandmother in the kitchen singing, “Morning has broken, like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird…” Though she has been gone almost 30 years, when we sing this hymn at church I can immediately hear her sweet voice. As a teenager, I loved the transcendentalist poets and writers, and kept a small copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature in my backpack all the time. This portion describing those who love nature always spoke to me: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and (in spite of) all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece.” As Psalm 19:1 reminds us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
The symbolism of Easter is suffused with symbols from the natural world—eggs and blooming flowers are concrete reminders of the abstract concepts of spiritual awakening and eternal life. Take a moment this Easter to walk quietly and observe the life around you. The trees in bloom, the caterpillars making their way through the garden, the grandparents holding the hands of their toddler grandchildren. Easter reminds us that life continues in new forms and in new ways, and never to lose hope—even when things look dark.
The Lord is Risen. Indeed.