Swamp Wisdom amid Signs of Spring
The swamp was still in spite of the wind, protected by surrounding hills and trees. Snowmelt had raised the water level and the surface was still, a mirror reflecting back on itself. A fallen log at one end made a good place for me to sit and reflect. What swamp wisdom would it share?
Life has been emerging from swamps for hundreds of millions of years. Now in spring, the air carries anticipatory energy. What seeds were planted, gestated during the winter, survived, and are now ready to appear? When will the new emerge from this womb of nature and in what form? What will it become?
So subtle was the swamp in winter, I’d almost missed it the first time I walked by. A thick duvet of snow covered the forest, its smooth surface broken only by the trail that wound through the trees. Yet something had caught my eye and I turned right towards the small clearing that opened in the contour of the hill. Animal prints clustered at the far end under low boughs, undoubtedly from deer gathered to feast on tender branches.
At the end of April, I was eager to see how it had transformed with the season. Earlier mild days had brought out choruses of frogs singing their hearts out to attract a mate. Seasonal birds had been flitting about selecting building materials for this season’s nests and bustling squirrels rustled in the leaves for last year’s food stashes. Temperatures had dropped however and this day was chilly and windy.
The water’s stillness and the chill air belied the activity of this living and vital biosystem. Leaves, green and vibrant last summer, brilliantly colored last fall before detaching and drifting to earth, floated in front of my feet. Others hung suspended just beneath the surface in various stages of decomposition. Submerged logs and branches provided homes for aquatic life and microscopic beings vital for water purification. All together it provides a home for wildlife habitat and stores carbon storage.
Spring, with its heralding of new life, is particularly reflective for me, as it’s the season when I arrived on earth. This one carries particular significance. Although this is not a revelation, there’s no question as I turn sixty-seven that I’m in the final third of my life. There’s been a distinct change in the wind over several years. It is not a searching for meaning, but an openness to letting go and accepting the call to service in whatever format it takes. Is there a part of me that has yet to emerge, gifts to be expressed, that I can use in service?
The pandemic has taken all of us through an intense transformative process. It’s given me time and distance to see things differently and reshape my priorities. It’s affirmed, if there was ever any shadow of doubt, that there’s very little I’m in control of. I’m reminded, that in spite of the magnitude of this change, to maintain perspective. This is not the only major existential crisis we’re facing.
The mulching leaves remind me that we must let go of old ways of thinking and remove old limits. They’ll only keep us stuck. They no longer work and there’s no point in trying to hang on, but we do what has come before to fuel our future.
All that has come before, my life experiences, and the stories of the lives of my ancestors, form the mulch, the nutrition, energy, and wisdom to prepare me for what comes next. They’re necessary and valuable ways of being to be honored. I want to be awake to their wisdom and the messages they’re telling.
I’m certain that the rest of my life will look different than what’s come before. I just don’t know the exact format or how different. What matters most is that I’m being true to who I am, not filling a role I think I should, or one others expect of me. Doing that put me to sleep for a good part of my life already.
My prayer is to be comfortable with the vastness of what I don’t know and not rush to fill in time or space for the sake of ease; to be with whatever arrives.
It’s not surprising that Dad came to me with swamp wisdom on this day since the day I was out there was his birthday. I heard his final words to me. “I trust,” he said from a place of utter peace, serenity, and calm. Fitting advice for uncertain times.