Jim Bishop: Enter March Madness – bring it on!

“Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right.”
– The Beatles, 1969

January creeps by more slowly than fund appeals on public broadcasting.

February slips by faster than the time period between hitting the sack Sunday night and the grating buzz of the alarm clock Monday morning.

March pounces in like a lion, roaring across the landscape, then quietly subsides, gentle, lamblike. Then, the cycle repeats itself.

At my workplace, today marks the start of “mid-semester break.” I love the phrase, even though it doesn’t signify a brief slower pace for many of us. Only teaching faculty get a brief respite; some students head for warm, sunny climes, while others a few souls head south to Florida to play ball or golf, make donor contacts and go on an intensive choir tour. I’ve debated going south at least once over the years, but it’s never worked out.

However, Lord willing and nothin’ preventin’, as “they” say, this hallowed day I hope to gather fellow comfort food aficionados, anchoring both feet on the floor, while arguing vociferously the merits of maple syrup over cottage cheese, apple butter or even ketchup as the condiment of choice on this Pennsylvania German foodstuff.

Yes, it’s time for the Bishop cousins’ ScrappleFest VI being held at Blooming Glen, Pa., a tasteful celebration of food, family relationships and a heritage of faith.

Depending on what transpires, watch this space for some program highlights. Accountability is critical to the ongoing well-being of this motley crew.

This is indeed that buffer, teaser time of year. One day, snow or high wind warnings, the next, Old Sol sez, it’s time to rise and shine and let temperatures tiptoe into the 60s. I look longingly at the Miata and ponder the question of the hour, should I drop the convertible top, crank up the heater, plunk an oldies collection in the CD player, set the diminutive vehicle on auto pilot and see if I wind up at Kline’s Dairy bar?

‘Tis the season for chicken barbeque sites to spring up at intersections around town, for Cadbury cream eggs to entice me at checkout counters, for succulent turkey-oyster suppers, for starting some bulbs indoors in pots to transplant outdoors when danger of frost has passed.

Primary landscape colors remain brown and gray, but a closer inspection around our dwelling place reveals green sprouts pushing through encrusted mulch, raising tender tendrils to the sky. Snowdrops, daffodils and tulips declare, “We’ve been underground long enough. Let’s check what’s happening up above, even though we know we could quickly be buried under another wintry mantle.”

Around us, willow trees take on a greenish tinge, forsythia and lilac bushes sport bulging buds. A flock of robins huddles in our backyard, wondering if they took the wrong turn at Albuquerque. The early morning sunroom serenade from our resident parakeet, Ozzie, sounds a bit more chipper these days as I sit quietly for a few fleeting moments, savoring that third cup of coffee and contemplating what the new day might bring.

I know from long experience that no sooner do second semester classes resume after the too quick “break” week that the pace accelerates and there are no more breathers – other than Easter weekend – before the semi-annual time of reckoning, finals week, rolls around, capped by another commencement weekend.

Such is the rhythmic, seasonal nature of life. Each of us would do well, amid the flurry of activities we are called to do – some of it our choice and other parts decided by others – to pause and weigh our priorities. It may require a conscious, difficult effort to remove an activity from our schedule, however enjoyable and energizing it may be. Or, it may mean setting a new, measurable goal to replace that New Year’s resolution already consigned to the shredder.

Spanish-American essayist, novelist and poet George Santayana (1863-1952) declared, “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”

Without the changing seasons, I suspect there is more inclination to become contented with what is, the status quo. I don’t want to feel so comfortable with daily routine and the predictable that I’m not attentive and receptive to the possibilities and promise that this new, uncharted month offers.

After all, isn’t March 4th the day commanded to “go forward?”

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. Contact him at bishopj@emu.edu.

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