Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood. –Laurence Sterne
Downstairs there are two cardboard boxes full of hundreds of letters from our courtship—one marked Letters to Denise, the other, Letters to Chris. In this era of smartphones and other technology, who can even imagine such a thing!? We met one May night, one one-in-a-million chance meeting, one would-you-like-to-dance swirl around the dance floor. He was headed back home to Missouri from a northern fishing trip with his Dad, and I was out with my friend Patty talking about her upcoming wedding. He gave me his temporary fishing license with his name and address on it and said if I’d write to him, he would write back to me. So I did. That began our two-year, 400-miles-apart courtship.
Letters are slow—slow to be written with pencil or pen and slow to be delivered by the US Postal Service. But I still recall the excitement of opening the mailbox to find a letter from Chris, unsealing the envelope, reading his words and turning over the pieces of paper in discovery of this man. Many things we wrote about were mundane—the weather, what we ate for supper, what tv shows we watched. But letter by letter, slowly and surely, his character and values emerged. Most of the time when we did see one another in person, we stayed at our parents’ houses. I spent time washing dishes with his Mom, held the ladder for his Dad as he put up Christmas lights and told stories, met his four older brothers, their wives and children, and spent precious time with his sister. Chris went duck hunting with my Dad, brought gifts of plants for my Mom, and made my siblings laugh. Our courtship was slow and lovely and difficult and richly exciting as we anticipated each new discovery and the life we would have together.
The courtship of Spring is also the slow emerging of a wondrous season. Weeks after the calendar Spring, tiny, golden leaves unfold from a Ninebark shrub.
Rhubarb, the delicious, tart fruit of the North, is pushing its way up out of the ground…
…while seeds of abundant greens wait for warmer weather and germination.
Setbacks happen in even the best of courtships—we were smiling from the warmth until a wave of cold air moved in this week, icing over the birdbath and constricting the leaves and flowers that were intent on opening.
Even the bluebird, all poufed up from the cold, was wondering what had happened to Spring.
Setbacks are temporary, and early bloomers like Epimedium and Lilacs can tolerate the cold better than others.
Day by day, Spring reveals new surprises—blooming Vinca vine and fairyland Mayapples.
Ferns unfurl tête à tête…
…and Mourning Doves and other birds pair up in courtship.
Spring delivers a plethora of quiet, slow unfoldings as each tree and plant comes ‘back to life’ after a dormant winter, as each pair of birds and animals prepare for mating and raising young ones. The courtship cannot be one-sided—it takes the attention and appreciation of a beloved for the other to be seen and understood. Each Spring we are privy to thousands of tiny miracles right before our eyes. Do we see them? As we swirl around the dance floor of Earth, tête à tête with Spring and with the beloveds of our choosing, it behooves us to remember that courtships include more than just the pair. We are part of a family, a friend group, a community of like and unlike, and finally, a small part of the entire Whole. While in our mundanity, during our chilly setbacks and mistaken attentions that alarm, let us notice the quiet miracles, the revealing values and character, and the discoveries that let us know we’re on the right track, that’s there’s no turning back, that we’re all in this together.