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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

My neighbor and I were outside doing mindless spring cleanup. After an hour or so I took a short break from excising leaves from the ground cover to ask how he was doing thatching his lawn.

“I love spring,” he said. “The death of winter is the beginning of life.” He was spot on, even if I was tempted to retort all those dead leaves in the ivy might be the death of me.

When we both went back to work I kept thinking about what he’d said. There is so much work to be done at this time of the year it’s tempting to think about moving into a condominium or hiring groundskeepers to swoop in and do it. The idea of downsizing and moving is the stuff of nightmares, and I am too thrifty (all right, cheap) to hire someone to do a job I can do.

Blowing old dead leaves, some of them still soggy and matted down, is not rocket science and it frees up the mind to turn over ideas and see things in new perspectives. That came when a big drop of sap fell in front of me.

A maple that had been dormant ever since it dropped the leaves I was removing had, after a long winter, come back to life for another season. Beneath my feet were the first signs of daffodils sending up shoots. And some of our beloved songbirds who had deserted us in late August had persevered on the long flight from warmer climates to Michigan. The operative word is “perseverance.”

It seems there is a decrease in human mortality between Thanksgiving and Jan. 2, almost as if we will ourselves to experience the holiday season. Then through March brings an uptick of names in obituary columns.

Spring tends to bring a decline, as if we will ourselves to persevere through illness, advancing age or some of the other challenges we might face, for the basic pleasure of experiencing the season.

All of us need to find one thing that spurs us on. My uncle, the president of a county-chartered bank during the Great Depression, had a print of covered wagons going across the prairies. It wasn’t a good or dramatic painting, but he kept it on the wall opposite his desk.

For him, it was a reminder that if plodding donkeys pulling Conestogas and the settlers to the west coast could persevere and keep going, so could he.

Go find your inspiration and persevere.