11 – 02 – ’63
Hello there! I hope that you have had a lovely two weeks and that you are appreciating the warmer weather that has been gracing us with it’s presence. Indeed the positively balmy temperatures of around twelve degrees up here on the North Coast have encouraged me to don the flip-flops, which means that spring is well and truly advancing.
I don’t know about you, but with spring there is always an air of hope stuck onto the coat-tails of even the fiercest of storms. Not only do the howling winds loiter less frequently around the corners of rain-sheets, but their vigour in their task seems redoubled, as though they know that for some months they will be put away with the heavy winter coats and exchanged for cotton dresses and summer breezes.
Spring for me brings so many joys, for who would not become light-hearted at the sight of a lamb bouncing along for the sheer and utter pleasure in it. There is a Psalm that says ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’. The nights of winter, the dreary darkness shadowing our trudge in and out of the office and the short days closing in around us, sapping all our energy, are opening up into the light of spring days, garnished with torrents of multi-coloured tulips and the sense that we have muddled through the darkest months and into the light. All that symbolism from on psalm? Well, I am an English literature student after all.
Now that you have waded through the pretentious swathes of the art student and are hopefully settled somewhere with a massive mug of the brew used to build a thousand ships – tea – I will move onto the lady pictured above, Sylvia Plath.
Appropriately enough, my Plath lecture this week was held on International Women’s Day. Despite being picked up as a ‘feminist’ throughout her work, my personal readings show her as a far more complex person that this first indicates (too all feminists out there, don’t get angry please, this is not personal, just an opinion). Plath was undoubtedly a very complex woman but aren’t we all? And then men all say to that, ‘Amen’.
Despite the darker shades of imagery and tone throughout her work, there is always a touch of hope, as though she knew that there would be something beyond ‘this veil’ (‘A Birthday Present’, Ariel). After her death, the work she was compiling was gathered together by husband and fellow poet, Ted Hughes. I unfortunately do not have the time nor the expertise to tell you all about the controversies over their relationship depicted through her poems, but in the meantime I will be content with telling you that as the editor of the volume Ariel, Ted Hughes did not always have the same views that his late wife had.
However their daughter, Frieda, took this stance when she helped to publish a restored edition of Ariel in 2004. This edition, which included a few poems and transcripts that had been little seen in the public’s eye before then, showed both the dark and light sides in Plath’s persona. In fact the last poem in the restored collection, entitled ‘Wintering’ showed a hope at the end of tunnel, with the bringing of spring.
‘They taste the spring’.
These words from a woman who’s ‘hopeful’ filter was not often applied to her point of view.
Spring is the joy in the morning, the coming of hope, the dawning of dreams and all of this can be shown through the festival, now fast approaching, which has become a pastel coloured block in the calendar in many a kitchen. Easter.
It is the epoch of the springtime and the climax before the coming sun and relative heat of the summer. Yet what does it symbolise today? For many it is the time whenever lent is over and that ‘one thing’ given up faithfully (or unfaithfully) on Ash Wednesday, can be restored to daily life, may it be chocolate, Facebook or being nice to that very annoying co-worker.
Easter is constantly associated for kids of all ages, around the ultimate confection – chocolate. Thus causing parents to tear around Tesco for Cadbury’s eggs, hoping that the great-aunts don’t give out too many from Marks and Spencer, the sizes of which can be bigger than the child’s head.
Easter egg hunts, bunnies, parties, bank-holidays, all these things are good things and it is a joy to watch little toddlers and big kids (hi Dad!) go through the festival with chocolate-smeared grins and glittering eyes. However, when we strip Easter back, do we realise what we are actually celebrating? Do we realise that it revolves around one man who was beaten to Roman torture standards, laughed at, abandoned and rejected by his friends and Father, all to save a race of people who were doomed to death?
All too often we take Jesus out of Easter and as we go into this time and I urge you to think about the Easter story. If you don’t believe a word of the bible, then why celebrate this festival? Why even celebrate Christmas for that matter?
If you do believe that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, then why do you celebrate Easter? Is it just because everyone else is getting hyped, or that the hipster-cool worship leaders are writing new songs on Jesus’s sacrifice, death and resurrection, or even you are just doing it because it’s the ‘done thing’ and you’ve never really thought about it?
The eye-witness accounts of Jesus’s arrest, trial, death, burial and resurrection can be found in all the latter chapters of the gospel, but I would recommend either John’s chapters seventeen to twenty-one or Luke’s chapters twenty-two to twenty-four. Maybe even think about some of these questions: Who was this man? Why would he and why did he come? Is he just self-richeous or living for someone greater than whom he is? What does this mean for me in my life? What even is that??
This post was meant to be an ode to Sylvia and has become something that was not planned, showing that words really do open up door you never would think to push open.
I will leave you with my thought for the day, that is if we are meant to be here and want to be saved, then who would put us here and not want to save us?
Spring is all new beginnings and new life.
At least that’s what Easter is.
I’ll write as soon as I can soon everybody,