The Fragility of Life

Every Spring I am awed at the lush new growth in our natural world. The first tints of color on branches appear, then an underlying blush of green in response to increasing light. Soon the grass is thick, and buds on early shrubs open to the sun through the canopy of trees before the leaves appear overhead. Spring bulbs of daffodils, tulips, and narcissus fill our gardens, and dandelion and dame’s rocket grace the roadsides with the colors we’ve missed for six months. As trees blossom—apple, cherry, pear, and peach—and forsythia, lilac, and viburnum bushes fill with flowers, the air is filled with fragrance. We count on it.

We only need a single season where one of these familiar and well-loved spring sentinels does not appear to be reminded of the delicate balance of nature. This year, no forsythia bloomed in my garden because it was so warm early in the year. Buds were set in the warmest January on record and froze in February. The buds had already spent their seasonal bloom when spring arrived. In the twenty years since I planted those forsythia, this has never happened. They have bloomed early; they have bloomed late; but no bloom—never.

Are we responsible for this interruption of the natural cycle? When I dwell on the awesome responsibility of caring for the only world we can live in (for the foreseeable future, anyway), I am reminded of the late astronomer Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot,” an excerpt from his book by the same name, inspired by a photograph taken from Voyager I in 1990 in which the earth appears as a pale blue dot. In the image—taken from a distance of more than 4 billion miles—the Earth is a mere point of light, caught in the center of one of the scattered light rays, resulting from taking the image so close to the Sun. To paraphrase Dr. Sagan, because it is our only home, we have a responsibility to be kind to one another and preserve and “cherish the pale blue dot.” —Moderator Susan Bues