This past week I did my annual ritual of standing on my deck and looking out over the landscape of our world transformed into a wonderful, vibrant array of life-emerging green - all kinds of green, the special springtime yellow-green of some of the trees and the deeper green grass and bushes. After so many weeks of waiting spring's arrival, it often seems too sudden and breathtaking in a way. The experience is especially exhilarating when the green is combined with a burst of flowering plants and trees. And after these months of Covid it was especially welcome this year.
The explosion of color and the emotions it evokes has quite an impact on our souls (and, for those with allergies, on our bodies!). This is all part of the phenomenon called “spring fever,” and although I have often used the term over the years I never really thought much about what it means. Historically it was classified as a illness (hence a “fever") because people got seriously ill with the arrival of the spring season. It was finally discovered that it had a dietary origin from the lack of fresh fruit (especially citrus) and vegetables because the body’s vitamin C reserves were depleted during the winter. The condition is called scurvy and it particularly affected sailors who suffered most severely at sea. The cure, it turned out, was quite simple: eating citrus fruits. Hence ships were provisioned with barrels of limes which led to the sailors being nicknamed “limeys.”
But enough of the nutritional cure for "spring fever." What I really want to talk about is about the impact "spring fever" has on our emotions. This year I seem to have especially experienced “spring fever” as a heightened sense of anxiety. The medical literature defines spring fever as "any of a number of mood, physical, or behavioral changes, which may be experienced coinciding with the arrival of spring, particularly restlessness, laziness, and amorousness.” At least some of these apply to me, but in any case, in addition to these more typical symptoms I feel like I am still warily recovering from the isolation and anxiety caused by Covid. Now that I am supposedly mostly released from the threat of lethal Covid it still lurks around, as evidenced in the current uptick here on Whidbey of reported cases. The joy in nature’s resurrection and a more open social environment provide welcome encouragements that all will be well, but perhaps because I am anxious for more stability and normality I am more sensitive to the remaining tensions between our existential reality and the assurances my soul longs for. So my version of “spring fever” this year includes feeling cautious.
Are any of you feeling somewhat the same? Does it seem harder to take on anything new preferring instead to hold on to what seems most familiar? I know it has become increasingly difficult to recruit people for committees and volunteer assignments. This week I came across a term that describes most of us as the “exhausted majority” who are just tired of the political and social tensions on top of the ongoing adaptations, and uncertainties related to recovering from Covid and dealing with climate change, reckoning with systemic racism, and the transition from the endless war against terrorism that is now the war in Ukraine.
I doubt that we will find a cure for our contemporary “spring fever” as simple and obvious as eating more citrus fruits that worked in the past. But I do believe we are ultimately going to find an antidote to our ongoing sources of anxiety and injustices that are part of this ongoing world. I have actually been consistently writing about these antidotes for months now as have so many others. The ultimate goal is to create the Beloved Community where equity, mutual respect, justice, and cooperation that anchors the vision for shalom and peace. To get there we need deep and widely practices of truth and reconciliation, accountability to just and reinforced laws, and the humble recognition that we are all in this together on our ever-smaller earthly planet. And if we season this all - individually for a start - with kindness and compassion and the redemptive power of love, we can actually make a significant difference in our immediate world and beyond - as so many of you do on a daily basis!.
In the meantime, in between time, we live in a “spring fever” world that both gives us great hope while we also persisting with some level of anxiety and uncertainty.
[Footnote to this evening’s post. I will be traveling back east next week and will not post during this time. And beginning in June I will be posting only every other week, at least through the summer.]