Opening Words from Sun. April 10 by Dara Strickland

Good Morning. I’m Dara Strickland, my pronouns are she/her. I’ve been a member at the Ethical Society for about 3 years.

Today it’s going to be 75 degrees; two days ago? Snow.

This is an object lesson on why farmers’ almanacs in Missouri tell you not to put new plants in the ground before April 15 – which is this week.

Both the seasoned gardeners of the Ethical Society and those who just want their husband’s climate-controlled tomato seedling biosphere go back to being a laundry room again are going to be busy. It can be so hard to wait those couple of weeks between the official beginning of spring and the last freeze – when it’s actually safe to plant something new.

I feel that’s where we are with life after Covid as well. Or, rather, life with Covid. We’ll never not be the same people who changed our lives to save our lives and protect others around us. But this isn’t a week to ruminate over our long winter or look ahead to the next frost – this is a week for cautiously, hopefully planting to grow something new.

This theme for this month’s Platforms is the Core Value “I am free to question.” While we usually talk about that in relation to skepticism of a wider world of superstitions and political systems, it’s also a value we can hold in a much smaller and closer form: I am free to question what I value about myself, about my life, today.

This week, hiding from the cold, I watched a charming little movie called About Time which has been out for about 10 years. It’s a comedy about love and time travel. Like all really good fantasy media, it isn’t actually about the fantastic at all, but the human. The protagonist, Tim, finds out on his 21st birthday that he has the ability to relive any part of his own past and to make small changes. Like most of us would, he first uses it to fix times when he put his foot in his mouth. He uses it to help a friend; he uses it to get another chance to meet the girl of his dreams for the first time.

Eventually, when Tim is more settled into who he is, he decides that the secret to living a good life is to live each day twice. The first time, he lives it exactly as it is, without changing any of the annoyances or frustrations. Just before bed, Tim then goes back to the morning to relive the day, not to smooth out those rough edges but to experience it all again with an attitude of joy. He chooses not to be a person with a perfect life, but to be a better friend, partner, and parent. He is completely free to question what he values in every moment of his day, but the only thing he consistently chooses is more appreciation for what he has.

We don’t have fantastical time travel powers. Our choices about the boundaries of our lives are constrained by physical ability, by economics, by location, by culture – but we do have this remarkable freedom to question what we believe about ourselves in the world.

For two years, we have been waiting inside, dreaming of the spring when things will “return to normal” or “get back to how they were.” Now, when we are starting to navigate the reality of that spring, it’s worth asking ourselves not only “Is this safe?” but also “Is this valuable?”. It is worth using the experience of our long winter to inform a deliberate interrogation about who we want to be.

Flowers are already giving way to leaves on the trees. There’s no denying that we’re coming into a season of growth that we can enjoy more fully than we’ve been able to in the last two years. Don’t rush this week, though, this cautious time between what we hope is the last snow and the return of warm days.

This time is for us to question what we wish to plant.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.