It’s time. Spring, the youngest of the sister seasons, journeys up from the Southern Lands ruled by her sister Summer to bring tidings of warmth and blessing to the world.
As she kisses Summer a sweet goodbye, her arms full of flowers, Summer admonishes her, as always, saying, “Now Spring, don’t be silly about it. Be responsible with the gifts I give you. Give them with grace and good pacing, and gradually, and graciously, and don’t waste half of them on a whim or burst out in too much color all at once or . . .”
But Spring wasn’t listening. She was too excited, she couldn’t sit still. She was already on her way.
And Summer shook her rich dark locks and sighed a luscious sigh and thought, She never learns. Every year it’s the same. She goes bursting into the world as if there are no consequences, as if there were no yesterday. She never plans, she’s inconsistent, irresponsible! Oh the ideas she gets into her head! A crocus blooming in the snow? New frogs cheeping and laying their tender eggs in the very first warm spell, with Winter still planning ice storms? Leaf buds bright red? Pink flowers in the trees before the branches have even leafed out? Oh, she’s rash, immature, she doesn’t think! She’ll toss a zillion seeds and insect eggs into the world to try their luck, without help, without thinking what will become of them. And she’s so moody, you can’t reason with her. It’s all balmy sunshine one day and howling winds the next. Rain and bees one minute, then sleet and chilling fog the next. Grass shining so psychedelic green, it’s more than mortal eyes can take, and then she covers it in mudslides. She’s incorrigible! And she starts a thousand projects she’ll never finish.
Up in the Northlands, their sisters Queen Winter and her messenger Autumn were conversing along similar lines.
“Spring thinks everything is rainbows and butterflies,” explained Autumn, who was very cool, and highly respected for her dark, cynical poetry on death, loss, and decay. “She makes every feeling so obvious, wears her heart right out in the open every day! She’s so naive, it embarrasses me. A hopeless idealist!”
“Yes,” answered Winter, after long thought, “she’s a dreamer. She really believes in fairy tales. She’ll never grow up. It’s as if she believes the world can survive all that’s been done to it, all that’s been lost, all that will be lost. Doesn’t she see?” But she looked rather dreamy herself, seeing Spring in her mind.
“She has no subtlety,” added Autumn. “No artistry. I mean she covers all those stark, skeletal, totally unique tree shapes with amorphous foliage, fills in every single space without design, as if life were limitless! She’ll birth helpless baby animals all over the place— just adorable cuteness wherever you look! It’s ridiculous. See how the humans behave during her time! Like absolute fools. I mean really. She has a thing they call a pussy willow? A fuzz ball on a stick? And a frog called a peeper? Who names these things? They lose their heads to her, that’s what they do.” But Autumn was smiling now, in spite of herself. I wonder what she’ll come up with next? she was thinking.
“She’s so loud,” murmured Winter. “Those colors are so bright! The way the sun melts the scents out of the earth, you forget everything. And she’ll dissolve all my snow and ice in an instant, send it gushing down the hills without care for where it goes, clogging roads, making marshes of meadows, making such a mess of things. I prefer to keep quiet. She takes such risks.” But she spoke with admiration. She was Winter, the season of death. And her favorite time of year was her own ending. She yawned and closed her ice blue eyes. For weeks now, she felt like she’d been holding her breath.
Spring didn’t care what they said. They’d adored her all their life, and she knew it. She was running north, giddy with sunshine, and all the songbirds went with her.
Everyone was waiting for her show to begin. She rose up and stretched out her arms, and the flowers and birdsong flew out and rained down where they would, and she did not plan it. She stretched her arms wide open and loved out loud, with her whole heart, and her love poured clumsy, inconsistent light—red and yellow, budding and blooming, ground-bursting and tree-expanding—from the valleys all the way up the mountainsides, rolling up warm and melty, hill by hill, to the coldest peaks.
And when she arrived at the highest high, the peak of purest thought, the vista of hopeful splendor and infinite imagining, Spring knelt down and kissed the spring that bubbled forth from the stones, from the roots of stunted, enduring, ever-wind-blown trees. She kissed the beginning of the river, the little streams that would become it. She blessed the beginning of all rivers. She said,
“Oh pretty stream, so sleek here where I touch you, so lacy there where you curve and dally—go and caress all the forms of Earth with life and beginning! Oh wider creek, spreading and speeding up, here ridged and dimpling, there plunging into frothy piles of foam, there slashing sideways, then slowing down again with question, then flowing on with answer—How I bless you! Go on and rush, go on and plunge, and have no thought, have no reason, have no doubt.
“Bless you, little streams, for you always land beautifully. Bless you, for you always find each other, you always come together, you always agree at last. Bless you River, becoming the River, never alone, for you are always carried. You are always held. Trust the path this Earth gives you.
“And dear River, may you always be innocent. May you fulfill all your promises.
“May you quench the thirst of rabbits and birds, deer and coyotes, turtles and people, mice and beetles. May you raise forests upon your banks, and feed swamps with your resting where beavers cocoon you. May you flow undirected, unsullied, undammed by cities. May you deepen with life, with trout, with otters, with snails and with salmon, with kingfisher dreams and with crawfish and water-strider footprints. May your quieter rooms be nurseries for the fairy-ruffed nymphs of salamanders, for fat tadpoles, and for the little moulting monsters that will one day unwrap flying dragons. May you renew every land.
“May your wild song open hearts. May lovers and poets rejoice alongside you. May the weary bathe in you and rise up refreshed; may you wash and restore; may you be the reason life lives. May you give the gifts you long to give, and may those gifts be honored.
“May your sound be every story. May you be comfort, may you be faith. May you wash away sorrow while remaining ever pure. May you be the gathering place for celebrating multitudes and devout mourners, and may you be worshipped, and may your worshippers care for your body and pick you clean of anything that does not belong to you. May they hold back their toxins for you. May they live carefully for you, that you may go on beautiful, always, and may their children splash in your sand and your mud; may they find and lose treasures in your crumpling eddies, daydream in your depths, find salamanders beneath your stones and then release them gently right back where they found them.
“And may you enjoy all the long falling of your life: sometimes sinking so wide and buoyant, like a mother, and other times shooting out into space and then crashing so fast over sudden cliffs that your water seems to freeze in midair, all white, like a meditation on motion. May you be held sacred, everywhere you go, by every being, and may the love of you make them holy. May the love of you make them whole. May you be remembrance. May you be peace. May you be salvation. May you be what everyone longs for in a river, in their good hearts, because I am Spring, and I know that their hearts are good.”
The River flowed onward and outward and downward from Spring’s passionately loving touch, and it did not pause to question, and it did not pause to doubt. It did not say, What you ask is not possible. It just flowed on, and was happy.
And Spring said, “Dear River, we are fools. But be forgiveness.
“For as you pass through this world where innocence is uncool, where even this sentence and this prayer is uncool, where others curse and talk jaded and talk snarky… As you pass through this world in which excitement about animal life is something only children feel, and Earth-worship is not counted among the major religions, and magic is unscientific, and earnest emotion is embarrassing, and hopeful stories are not gritty or modern or post-modern enough, and the feminine spirit cannot get a job, and sweetness is weakness, and mythical creatures are for escapist fairy tales, and the thrill of Spring is a thing one outgrows, as one outgrows “Nature” when one is grownup and realistic, and the “real” world is the sad world only— don’t worry, don’t be afraid, for I am your Source.
“Because you know where you are going, River. Because the sea calls you there. Because I am Spring, and I forgive us the Winter. I forgive us the sorrow of yet another year. I forgive us our pain, our cynicism, our foolish despair.
“Dear River, be forever. Dear River, be free.”