Watching for spring

Kris Garey

Have you noticed how intently we are watching for spring? The melt’s not fast enough, sun not hot enough, soil not soft enough. We want birds from the south, bees from their hives. We draw the line at mosquitoes, but do want warmer weather so birds, bats, and waterfowl, water beetle, and minnows can chow down on them.

Our signs of spring include grass and leaves for greening; marsh marigolds with yellow to brighten ditches; colors of arriving wildflowers to catch our eye; birds at the feeders and in the trees.

Yup! We are a “watching for spring” people, waiting for lovely signals of the living glory of God’s creation. Some even have a spring-is-arriving “observation check-list”: seeable (hummingbird throats anyone?); touchable (softness of early ferns?); hearable (bird calls and spring peepers); even “smell-able” (aromas of earth turned over or caught on the air in a spring hike). With each signal, we can say, “thank God spring has begun” and relax into the warmer season ahead.

But—what if the Creation that God bestows were to lose much of what we look forward to? What if soils over-taxed by aggressive farming can’t support healthy plants? What if mosquitoes die from insecticides and damage birds, bats, fish? What if plastic covers everything? What if we are partly, or more fully, to blame?

The Creation which God gives is perhaps not only to “watch for” but is also our responsibility “to watch over.” The other day while thinking, “WHEN will the signs of spring appear?” I also recalled two recent articles I read. One was about a “garbage-patch” in the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas! Saddened, I wondered, “How do we humans let that happen? How do we cause that? How can we be stirred to remember the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it (Psalm 24).”

The second story, however, showed that we humans can also learn ways to care for what is God’s creation. This was about “regenerative soil” farming. While many farm techniques begun in the last decades damage soils, many farmers are now leading us to change, often by returning to older methods. One farmer who uses far less tilling finds soil smells sweeter, more wholesome. Another farmer told about his spiritual awareness, watching for spring in a field that has plant material and roots left from the previous fall. She sees God’s nature regenerating the soil. “It looks different, smells different, even holds water better to protect from drought.”

And then there was a recent conversation with my friend, Emily, who at age 96 still lives on the farm she grew up on. She told me that on the farm they are doing things differently now. “I don’t worry about the soil’s health as much… it looks richer, feels right in the hand, and we use far less pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers. I figure the earth is the Lord’s, so we need to watch over it. This spring I’m watching for what new shows up; I thank God we are changing our ways.”

I thank God for spring, and for Emily! I hope to join her in “watching over” more diligently for the health of God’s creation— and really hope that the signs of spring on my watch list start soon!

Each month a member of the Cook County Ministerium will offer Spiritual Reflections. This month our contributor is Pastor Kris Garey, Trinity Lutheran Church, Hovland.

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