Spring has come to central Illinois, although it seems like summer because temperatures are in the 80s. In the woods behind the house, green dots push out from the ends of bare branches and unfold like tiny origami leaves. While there is excitement for what is coming, there is also sadness for what is leaving. The view through the trees to the hill on the far side will soon be curtained, as will my ability to watch dozens of squirrels chase each other up and down the tree trunks and leap from branch to branch like Cirque du Soleil acrobats. Soon there will be a canopy of green trees, flowers on the forest floor, and birds singing and zipping through the air.
I long for what is leaving. I also long for what is coming, but they cannot exist together.
Longing is a hunger, a search for what is deeper than what can be seen, a hunger for what connects the disparate parts of life, what brings meaning to the struggles. It’s a hunger that is never filled. Life is a long hike up the side of the valley wall and through the forest on the North Rim Trail that leads me out onto the top of North Dome with its commanding view over the length of the valley. From the valley floor, North Dome looks to be the high point. But turning around, I see Indian Ridge rise twice as high, and my hike upward continues, after taking a deep breath.
We long to arrive somewhere because we’re tired of checking to see if we’re on the right path, we’re tired of paying attention to every sound in the woods, and we wondering how much further we have to go. But if we think about it, we may realize that we don’t want to arrive, that we like being on the journey because we discover new things and learn more about life’s dimensions. This hunger is a gift because it keeps us from settling into a season that never changes.