“Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonetts to Orpheus, 1923
This year, winter liked us so much it didn’t want to leave. During Easter break all the lakes were still covered by ice, but to keep the mood up winter had thrown in some sunshine and blue skies.
Now, however, it is happening. Spring has finally arrived and with it this giddy feeling that all might, in the end, go well. Why is it that we so strongly associate spring with hope?
Some years ago I had a moment of enlightenment. After having intensively read about the evolution theory, I came over a book by a Finnish biologist. She wrote there that evolution doesn’t lead to optimization, something that is “better” than the previous. Instead, she stated, evolution leads only to diversity. Only then I realized that somehow, implicitly I also had believed that evolution is a kind of progress. Already the term “survival of the fittest” seemed to suggest this. But “fittest”, I now understood, just means fitness for a certain place and time, an ecological niche. It doesn’t imply that, for example, mammals from the perspective of evolution are generally “better” than dinosaurs. Even increasing complexity of lifeforms does not erase the co-existence (or validity) of simpler forms. I only means that the range of forms, the diversity spreads out to more extreme ends.
For me this was a profound insight: life on Earth doesn’t lead anywhere – other than to more life. And one glance into my bio-composter confirms this. This heap of “deadness” virtually teems with life. It is this self-confirmation of life that we experience so exuberantly in spring, when out of seemingly nothing suddenly there is plenty.
This is where spring has its connection to hope. We see once again that no place is too barren that not something new and beautiful could spring from it. Spring is a beginning and thus fulfilling a promise: life always leads to more life.
For a nature photographer, spring is a time to take out a macro lens and to get close. Close to budding leaves, flowers and close to whatever other poems Earth knows, as Rilke says. But there is another aspect of Rilke’s line that impresses me: every spring, nature becomes innocent again, like a child that knows poems. The budding leave is soft and intricate as if there were no storms, drought or frost. And I wonder, can we do this like nature does? Can we wash off the taint of despair, renew ourselves and look afresh out on the world? Again and again? It seems to me, resilience and hope are closely related. If that is true, looking at spring can be a true workout to strengthen our resilience.