April is the cruelest month…” When I used to teach T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” to North Carolina high school students, they always stopped right there at the first line in consternation.
How could anyone think spring is cruel? The poem goes on to speak longingly of winter:
“Winter kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow, feeding / A little life with dried tubers.” I have to admit, I’ve been ready for warm weather since about Jan. 6, so I can appreciate how these verses seem to contradict a Southerner’s deep-seated dislike of cold. However, “The Wasteland” is a poem about a spiritual wasteland in our hearts, and each uncomfortable image needles us into self-reflection.
I’m frequently afraid of a spiritual spring. Looking back, I can see that my greatest spiritual growth has often come out of seasons of suffering, loss, loneliness and hard work. Yet it’s hard to voluntarily enter into a season of discomfort, even knowing that the results could transform me …
Picture credit: “Washing Dishes,” by Utah artist Kathleen Peterson