Well, it's official. Yesterday the first two daffodils bloomed. This morning the first hyacinth was nodding serenely by the front door, and over by the monastery the grape hyacinths are waving in the breeze. We have hundreds of daffodils planted around the property, and with just a little more warmth and sun we'll have our annual Great Spring Display. And then, God and the deer willing, will come the tulip-daffodil crosses and the tulips. So it is actually going to happen again. Spring is coming.
Because I'm feeling so much into it now, I try to remind myself of the old adage: "April is the cruelest month." You can't really count on anything around here until May. I was living in England once at this time of the year and remember thinking about that poem that says: "Oh, to be in England, now that April's there", and wondering: "What on earth could he have been thinking about?" There are still going to be a number of weather set-backs. But my attitude to it is now changed for the season. I never realize how deep the winter consciousness goes in my bones until the first day like this in the Spring. And then I know, once again.
There's actually lots to be celebrating. One thing that's been on my mind is the Guesthouse season. This has been an extraordinary time. February is always the month in the year that has the highest occupancy rate (go figure). But this year it started in January and hasn't quit. Week after week we have been full or close to full not only on the weekends but during the week as well. Of course the pressure of that tells after a while. But it's also very gratifying. With retreat centers closing all around us, it's quite amazing to be on a upswing here.
And there are other interesting signs. A quite remarkable percentage of the weekday guests have been men. There have been weeks when every guest in the house except one or two was male. This is quite a change. Like most church institutions we can usually count on groups having one man to every two women. But come to think of it, when I look back, the percentage of men coming to the Guesthouse has been slowly increasing for some time. And now there seems to have been some sort of breakthrough. To be the sort of spiritual place that men find attractive and relevant is very encouraging.
The other thing is that the average age of the guests is going down noticeably. Few weeks pass now without a number of young people coming, and this is also a change that has been coming for a while. College and seminay groups have have been part of our life since I was the Director of the Guesthouse some years ago. But again, some kind of threshold seems to have been crossed. Towards the beginning of March there was one week when there was a quite unusual number of younger people here, and when we asked around we discovered that it was Spring Break, and the kids were here for part of that time, along with a significant number of faculty from several different schools. Quite a number of them were male. Who would have thought? Not the kind of Spring Break that I remember!
So there's life all around, and I'm feeling very grateful for all of it. Just the kind of sign that we need at the end of a long, hard winter.