“April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” Sonnet 98, William Shakespeare
Back in April, the sun rose earlier each day on the eastern horizon and set later and farther to the north on the western horizon until the summer solstice sprinted by on June 21st. The daylight prior to the solstice persists a few minutes longer each day in felicitous, tiny, precious increments. Early mornings are more welcoming, and evening sunsets linger. Here on our little island, the sun rises over the Sakonnet River or the Atlantic out on Sachuest Beach and sets over Narragansett Bay.
We sometimes take sandwiches to watch it sink red and pink and orange behind Conanicut Island to the south in the winter or Prudence Island in the summer at the Weaver Cove boat landing off Burma Road that runs along the west side of our island. Herring gulls, ospreys, and various diving and dabbling waterfowl often join us: cormorants, Northern diving ducks, harlequins, scoters, and loons.
The delicate greens of spring give way to lush summer foliage, then gaudy autumn golds and reds, and end once again in the sparse, naked beauty of winter branches black against cold skies and snowy fields. The seasons flow effortlessly one to the other. The spring miracle is as inevitable as winter, hardwired into genes of living things and into the orbit and tilt of our beautiful blue ball.
The startling pink of abundantly flowering cherries follow the magnolias and dogwoods. Bradford pears planted in half the commercial landscapes on the island burst forth in white once again. In May the petals begin to fade and fall, then cascade, covering ground and windshield. Pink petal decorated cars are often seen on East Main Road and Wapping Road and Indian Road. By August we are greeted each day with the last of the hydrangeas, Black Eye Susans, the pinks of Rose of Sharon, some unlikely, startling, hardy hibiscus, and the splendor of Trees of Heaven.
“He says the early petal-fall in past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.” The Oven Bird, Robert Frost
Now, when I open the shades to the morning, I begin to track early rising Orion with Betelgeuse and Rigel in the pre-dawn Southern sky; his signature belt and sword are tilted from the angles that will soon help dominate winter skies. The seasons are moving on for 2022, and it’s time to get the winter’s firewood into the shed.
We are a couple of months past the summer solstice for 2022 and each day gets just an inconspicuous bit shorter. Not much, at first, but later towards December, the foreshortening accelerates once again to begin the long climb back towards another flowering. The passing seasons prompt thoughts of the gift of light. I am reminded that the darkness is not a thing unto itself, but a privation. St. Francis taught that no depth of darkness can defeat the light of one candle.
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars, The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” Fyodor Dostoevsky
Evil has no substance of its own but is a privation, a negation, a denial of Good. What is a candle that cannot be extinguished by the depth of evil? I am reminded of one: the non-violent, gentle light of forgiveness. Selfishness, violence, hatred, divisiveness, rancor, vitriol, fierce anger, the depths of human cruelty, even murder ultimately surrender to forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Every time we pray that so often recited prayer by habit, we commit ourselves to a promise and an agreement that is not always easy to keep. A promise we should not ignore or neglect.
“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing,” spoken from the bloody pulpit of the Cross. Roman subjects quaked at the threat of it. The Cross symbolized the worst that human beings can do to one another. And yet the response of a mighty God to those who killed Him so terribly was not triumphant vengeance by fierce angelic riders seeking retribution, but the final soft word that defeats the darkness. He descended to the bottom of human suffering and returned the pain, not with justice, but with Love.
“Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12
Little is more powerful than genuine forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a sentiment, but a decision, a grace filled act of the will. Nothing answers hatred as effectively or more powerfully. The Cross is the symbol and the actuality of cruelty, fear, vindictiveness, and violence unlike almost any other. And it was overcome only and for all of us by Resurrection, forgiveness, and the Light.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Anyone who claims to be in the light
but hates his brother
is still in the dark.
But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light
and need not be afraid of stumbling;
unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness,
not knowing where he is going,
because it is too dark to see.” 1 John 2:9-11