One morning last week I smelled spring. It’s hard to describe, but words like fresh, damp, clean, and cool come to mind. And green. Spring definitely smells green. The scent startled me so much and was so pleasant that I altered my course. Instead of going inside the house to do the morning’s work, I wandered through my yard, breathing deeply and noticing spring. I noticed the spinach and lettuce that was growing in my garden; I saw the blooms on the flowering quince and the bleeding heart. There were other signs of spring too, and seeing them brought me great delight.
I do not always enjoy my yard like this; I do not always see signs of beauty and new life. In fact, more often than not, I view my yard as a battlefield. The enemies are gophers, deer and birds, and sometimes my own chickens. Even though signs of life and splendor abound, I only notice the gopher mounds, the nibbled off ends of tender plants that the deer have enjoyed, and the displaced bark and soil where my chickens have bathed and rested.
The day I smelled spring was such a positive experience; I vowed to change my perspective. I know that attentiveness to beauty and life can be cultivated with practice. I decided to view my yard as a place bursting with blooms and hope rather than a place of destruction and struggle. I will probably continue to see the signs of gophers, deer and birds, but I want to give my attention and energy to the growth and life that is all around me.
I wonder if this is what happened to Mary when she went to Jesus’ tomb a couple of days after his death. There were signs of resurrection all around her: the tomb was empty, there were angels inside, the grave clothes on the ground as if they were recently cast off. She didn’t connect what she saw with what Jesus had told his disciples about his resurrection. She could only see signs of his death and feel her own sorrow. Finally Jesus himself appeared to her, though she didn’t recognize him until he called her by name. “Mary,” he said. “Dear Teacher!” she exclaimed with recognition and joy.
There are all kinds of reasons we are not attentive to signs of life no matter how obvious they are. We may be lost in sorrow, distracted by work or addicted to our gadgets. Whatever the reason, consider adopting an attitude of attentiveness to life and beauty. Paying attention to the signs of life that are all around you will change your life. It certainly changed Mary’s life: she went from despair to joy in a matter of seconds. That is the message of Easter, after all, that life is more powerful than death.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!