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Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: The springing of the year

How soon we forget that spring is, among other things, the season that requires patience to appreciate.

Officially, the season arrives on Tuesday, but seasons are far too fickle to conform to a date on a calendar. Spring has sprung, as everyone knows who sees trees filling with buds, or opens their door on early mornings and hears the sharp chattering of birds proclaiming how delighted they are to be alive.

Temperamental, thy name is spring. After weeks of rain, fog and mist, we had days of bright sun, and then skies turned gray once again, only to …

If summer is the season of freedom, autumn the time of reflection, and winter a time to marvel at cold, cut-glass days, then spring is the season of possibility, of rebirth, and that most fugitive of human virtues — hope.

The coming of spring reminds us of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., shot dead 56 years ago next month, but eternally alive to people everywhere: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

The springtime movable feasts of the two great western religions, Easter and Passover, are on the way. One commemorates resurrection and renewal; the other celebrates the principle of forging ahead into freedom through the powers of community, faith and justice.

These concepts are so deep within most of us that we can’t give words to them, but they are present in our appreciation of the changing seasonal light, the yellow signal flares of forsythia, the arrival of the magnificent ospreys, returning from their Florida and Caribbean winter quarters, and piping plovers with their melodious penny whistle voices, and mad dashes across beaches foraging for food, or skimming low across the water, shifting in formation.

Patience, a belief in renewal, and a commitment to justice, are what fuel MLK’s infinite hope in the face of a world that seems to have gone off the rails.

Nature is not benevolent or diabolical. Its significant characteristic is indifference to us. But this doesn’t stop us from taking lessons from the ever-changing natural world, and gaining inspiration from what we see and feel.

In a time of confusion, strife, war and injustice, nature lets us know that what is hoped for does arrive, and perseverance to do what’s right in our community and beyond can bring light to dark corners.