Lasha Morningstar

April 1, 2013

The kiss of spring wafts by a rosy cheek. A glance at the mounds of snow makes a soul wonder how one is thinking about warmth and a new season although March 20 – the official start of that blessed season – has come and gone.

But its sweet refrain resounds throughout the Catholic world as Pope Francis is elected by the conclave of cardinals, prompting faithful voices to shout out entreaties that this joyful man brings springtime to the Church. Just the choice of Francis as his name reflects the ministry he already lives.

Those dwelling in the most desperate Argentine slums talk of the former archbishop's going into their homes, bringing them food, baptizing their babies, routing drug dealers, organizing youth groups. He brought them hope just as spring does for most of us.

Spring when I was a child meant hope, yes, but also escape. Once mounds of brown earth peaked through melting snow, I would hie across the highway, lift the strands of barbed wire, wriggle my way through and slop through the muddy fields.

The farmer welcomed me. Some of his many ewes would present him with twins, once in a while even triplets. Some of these duplicates would be black – lambs the ewes often rebuff. My chore – a chore that delighted this little kid – was to bottle feed the abandoned black lambs.

Spring at the farm warmed the ice of the creek and the bitterly cold water would start to trickle through the field. I spent hours peering into the trickling water imaging worlds of elves, frogs, tiny fishes living in imaginary kingdoms under the lacy melting ice. I snapped the dry pods of the dried out bulrushes off, split them in half and fluffed up the silken seeds inside. Then I tucked them into safe places along the bank – beds for imaginary weary forest beings.

The promise of new life excites even the escapist mind of a child.


Adults too. Just ask a gardener. Most have already trekked to their favourite garden centre. New seed packets have been scrutinized, old favourites snapped up, potting soil lugged over to the checkout counter.

But those who heard the words of Pope Francis about feeding the poor turn back to the seed display, pick up an extra packet of carrots, lettuce, bag of seed potatoes. Those extra rows of vegetables when harvested can be taken to the Marian Centre where volunteers and apostolates chop the shared nutrition into the daily stew for those who call the streets home.

No garden? Not to worry. Salisbury Greenhouse co-owner Rob Sproule produced the book Edible Container Gardens for Canada – mixed containers of edible plants so one can create their own "garden" of vegetables and herbs for themselves and perhaps to share.

For those of you who have too much garden – can you imagine that? – call in Operation Fruit Rescue. They harvest surplus berries and fruit, giving one-third to the food bank and splitting the rest between the owner and the rescue group. Nothing is wasted and the shelters and food baskets taste the sweetness of fresh fruit and berries.

I use spring as a tool. Given the desperate lives and fractured families and friendships in our society, one does not have time, space or permission to grieve when someone or something - even a dream – dies.

Woe to those who do not go through that grief journey. At some point in time those buried emotions will bubble up to the surface of life, fester and chances are you won't even know the origins of the "new" emotional turbulence. I know.


Scour the emotional landscape. Did a person or pet die? A neighbourhood changes, families and elders move away, and ambulances and police cars become part of the everyday – and every night – streetscape. Studies fail and dreams of a new career disappear.

Counteract that loss with a bit of life. Wander through an eco-friendly greenhouse and find a tiny shrub, pot of native grass, wildflower seeds. Talk to the staff about ideal growing conditions. Go out to a secluded spot and plant this bit of promise. Visit it weekly – maybe more – with a jug of life-sustaining water.

Pragmatics mean one can change universities, mooch around for another dwelling. But it is the planting of new life, putting up a birdhouse or feeder in a safe place that begins to heal grief with hope.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)