New blackberry leaves

New Leaves on Wild Blackberry, 2022. Photo by K. Rummer


New leaves and old fears

Reading spring with the help of Ezekiel

by Ken Rummer

When is it time to plant corn? When oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear. I remembered this bit of Iowa folk wisdom on my walk this morning, so I gave the burr oak a closer look. No leaves to measure. Nor squirrels, for that matter. Just a scattering of acorn caps on the ground below.

But new leaves are coming, if not yet for the oaks, already for some of the other woody plants along the trail. Leaves pop from arching blackberry canes. Wands of willow dance in yellow-green boas. And dogwood stems hold rolls of leaf aloft like tiny torches.

Spring weather is coming in fits and starts this year. Warmer stretches get chased off by loud barking cold fronts. We even had snow on Easter Day.

With all that thawing and freezing, all that now-and-not-yet, I find it hard to fault the leaves for being slow to emerge. Is it safe to come out now? Or is another frost in the offing?

I’ve been slow to embrace spring myself this year. The first blush of green on brown woods invariably brightens my spirits. But this time around, I’m hesitant. What blast of bad news is about to break? Another blizzard? Another rending of the body politic? Another resurgence of the virus?

I suppose my worries are part of the hangover from all that has happened over the past several years. I feel like a cartoon character after something big has just blown by. I’m still spinning around in the jet wash, blitzed and dizzy. Maybe you’re feeling something like that, too.

But the sight of new leaves gives me a boost. Bushes and trees are deciding that it’s time. They are placing their bets on warmer days and soon.

When the prophet Ezekiel looked into God’s future and saw restoration, he spoke of a life-giving river lined with trees. And of the trees he prophesied, “Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12 NRSV).

Leaves for healing — I like the sound of that. Seems like the world could use some healing. I could use some, too.

What if I could see Ezekiel’s hopeful vision in the the new leaves around me?

Then a bit of green on a blackberry cane might show me God’s hand reaching out to heal. Then a leafing willow might remind me that God is working for restoration even now. Then a greening dogwood might speak to me of God’s desire for all of life to be made whole.

I think I’ll bring Ezekiel’s field glasses along the next time I’m on the trail and see what the leaves have to show me.

And who knows? Maybe I can convince a squirrel to sit still long enough for a measurement.

Ken Rummer writer

Ken Rummer, Teaching Elder PCUSA, Honorably Retired

Ken Rummer, a retired pastor in the Presbytery of Des Moines,  writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts are available at