In Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot observes that “midwinter spring is its own season.” What a perfect encapsulation of Michigan weather! I think about that line often this time of year, especially–as I did this weekend–when I was out walking in brilliant sunshine but still nippy wind. At Frederick Meijer Gardens on a Sunday afternoon, snow and blossoms were both in evidence.

This kind of weather seems right for Lent: this in-between time, this time with death and life both in evidence, this time with the particular, astringent beauty that comes on a cold spring day.

I lived in Japan for three years in my teens, so I was drawn to this poem by Gary Snyder. I love how it articulates the both/and-ness of this season. I hope this morning (or whenever you’re reading this), it can provide a model for looking around your own “mid-winter spring” landscape for the love and other excellences that lie all around you, too.

Kyoto: March

By Gary Snyder

A few light flakes of snow
Fall in the feeble sun;
Birds sing in the cold,
A warbler by the wall. The plum
Buds tight and chill soon bloom.
The moon begins first
Fourth, a faint slice west
At nightfall. Jupiter half-way
High at the end of night-
Meditation. The dove cry
Twangs like a bow.
At dawn Mt. Hiei dusted white
On top; in the clear air
Folds of all the gullied green
Hills around the town are sharp,
Breath stings. Beneath the roofs
Of frosty houses
Lovers part, from tangle warm
Of gentle bodies under quilt
And crack the icy water to the face
And wake and feed the children
And grandchildren that they love.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids, a city I've come to love. I count myself rich in friends and family. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” I don't have the car anymore, but the sentiment is still true.

Leave a Reply