Quieting seasonal stress

As the ground begins to thaw and the air takes on a hint of warmth, it is difficult to resist the impulse to plunge into activity.

Even as I look at a mostly brown garden that has only patches of foliage and a few miniature irises making a late appearance, my thoughts are turning to the work of scooping out the covering of leaves, pruning shrubs for more efficient growth, and clearing and cutting the brush that sheltered and fed the birds during the winter.Image

Already, I am getting busy in thought and deed.  It seems to be a hallmark of spring that we emerge from our winter rest by declaring that we’ve had enough of lying about and are ready for action. As a gardening friend reminds me, though, spring is also a season of stress. Lovely as it is, it brings with it a sudden awareness that there is much to do and the frazzled feeling of urgency to get on with it.

Of course, activity can be exhilarating, as well as affirming. In the U.S., at least, it is practically a national virtue, and we are expected to be busy if we are to have any significance. Even as we age, we ratchet up our activity levels lest we feel or appear “old” and unproductive.

Much as we exalt the merits of busyness, though, when taken to extremes, it has a way of disturbing the peace with its undercurrent of white noise.

When I’m overly busy and preoccupied with my list of things to do, there is a nice hum to my life, but I may miss what someone is saying in a conversation or email. Or I exude such a sense of hurriedness that there is no space for a genuine exchange or the opportunity to be truly helpful. Sometimes, I will forget or neglect a mundane but important task, and then write myself a pass because, after all, “I’m busy.” It’s as if I am happily breezing along a waterway in a speedboat, unaware that my vessel is slowly leaking oil because I’m reveling in how fast I’m going.

So before I get too immersed in the busyness of spring, I’m rethinking my normal response to this change of season. I’m working in the garden with an eye to enjoying each task and my surroundings rather than “getting it done.” I’m hoping to be a little more like the owner of a greenhouse I visited a few days ago for my first glimpse of the spring blooms. She was watering plants when I walked in, but she took time for a leisurely chat as we basked in the warmth of the sun that was pouring in that day. While we talked amid the beauty of the thriving plants she had been tending, I was struck anew by something else she has cultivated: a welcoming presence that draws people to her greenhouse as much as what is growing inside. It was a timely reminder to ease into spring, knowing that this season is as much about gazing on its beauty as getting things done.

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