Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Unraveling

Every year, winter whittles down all my hopeful edges so that even after the crocus' delicate head has bravely busted through the new earth, still I don't believe in spring. You might ask yourself how this could possibly be, given spring doesn't exactly come into town disguised as winter.

But for whatever reason, spring always becomes like Santa Claus in my mind: something I believed in long ago with my whole childheart before truth stomped out the fire of fantasy. So I walk around long after crocus and daffodil, long after trees have budded, begrudging winter for so rudely outstaying her welcome.

And then one day I walk outside and I'm stopped in my tracks: Here we are in the middle of winter, and there are tulips everywhere--how weird! No, wait. Spring! (Gasp!) It *is* real, afterall!

Every year, people. I do this every. year. I'm beginning to wonder if there is a diagnosis that fits this chronic silliness. In a way, though, I can't blame myself. If you think about it: How can this be, this miracle? How can something so outrageous happen more than one glorious, irrepeatable time? And yet here we dance again, our whole bodies swaying, bobbing in the soft rhythms of spring's new breathing.

I wonder how many shifting seasons, how many gifting tides happen--and are always happening--all around me and within me, unnoticed. How many miracles, how many flowering possibilities are denied by my blind eye? Probably a lot, unfortunately. It occurs to me this is a brand of (and I use this word with the utmost gentleness) stupidity. Or perhaps we should call it misdirected disillusionment. Or...insanity. I mean, really. What would you honestly think of a person with whom you had this conversation?:

You: Wow, sure has been a cold winter; I can't wait for spring!

A Person: Oh, no, no, no, Honey--spring isn't coming *this* year. Lightning doesn't strike twice.

Unless you were talking with an old woman who pushes all her belongings in a shopping cart while she communicates with aliens through the fillings in her teeth, I'd venture to guess you'd wonder what in tarnation was wrong with that person. You'd be a little...disturbed. Or at the very least, confused.

But the sad (or is it funny?) truth is, we probably all think this way to a certain extent, about certain things. About love. About our own goodness, other people's goodness. About our dreams, about the magic that is possible in our lives, about the magic that already is. About helping each other, healing each other, healing the world. About it--whatever "it" is for us--becoming resurrected, renewed.

I sigh deeply when I think of how many winters we see in our relationships despite the pulsing promise of spring. Like the marriage we've given up on which has imbedded within it the secret to our greatest freedom and deepest happiness, if we would but take off our armor. The parent who will never understand us, but who still has deep wells of kindness and love to pour over us, if we would but lay down our disappointment. The defiant, unruly child who drives us hopeless and mad, but who will lead a great revolution one day, if we but honor her innocent hunger and power. The brother who can't seem to ever get his shit together, but whose insanity is one good decision away from being turned on its side to become an enormous gift to the world, if we but believe in him and his journey. The reflection in the mirror that's never enough, but which one day will stare back at us lovingly, if we but surrender to the beauty of imperfection (or at the very least purchase more flattering lighting).

I sigh deeply when I think of how many real and amazing possibilities we've given up on because we've sternly been told--or told ourselves--they're just ridiculous, naive childhood fantasies. Like peace. Sisterhood. Brotherhood. Authentic, multi-dimensional, individual happily-ever-after. Community. Meaningful, satisfying, fairly-compensated work. Justice. A truly honored, protected planet. Unconditional love. The American Dream, or anyone's dream, for that matter. Freedom. An end to poverty, hunger, oppression, abuse. Forgiveness. Trust.

But I sigh most deeply, most heavily when I think of all the things we spend our lives pursuing that we've been sold or told are real and entirely possible, which aren't. Like Hollywood love. Fast, easy money. Happiness you can buy. Lasting youth. Just wars. Guaranteed tidy, happy endings. Trickle-down anything. Redemptive violence. Pie in the sky by and by. A clean house while the kids are still young (I'm not entirely kidding about that last one--eat your heart out, June Cleaver).

I'm not sure how to school myself--or any of us--out of this. All I know is one simply should not walk around not believing in spring. It's just wrong, and a mean thing to do to one's heart. So maybe we could start there.

Imagine how much more tender our lives would be--even our aches and disappointments--if we believed amid the dark of the cold we would soon wake to find the soil has unclasped her praying hands to lovingly cup the trimphant faces of flowers? Imagine how we could breathe--and in that breath how much freedom there would be--if we relaxed into the rhythm of planting in the fall; thoughtfully blanketing the soil when it's freezing; tending to warmth indoors, reveling in the kind of snuggling and closeness only winter allows?

Imagine what it would look like if we joyfully--or at least faithfully--stoked the fire most winter mornings, the way the earth goes on rumbling with life-giving fire at her core? What if we allowed ourselves to be rocked to sleep peacefully all winternight by the earth tracing her perfect, age-old, renewing circuit around our closest star?

Even if frost claims the jasmine overnight and we wake to find squirrels stealing all our bulbs, at least in the grey grip of February, as we're cocooned in an afghan on the stale couch with miserable, seemingly interminable colds and cabin fever, we would have this: a green and firmly rooted knowing that soon, soon we will be sitting bare-legged in the cool grass; soon we will laugh as our children throw off their shirts to stand belly to belly with spring; soon we will roll up our sleeves and plunge shovels into softening soil; soon we will plant; soon, harvest.

I don't know, maybe you guys already do this; maybe the coming of spring, the magic and work of dreaming, and the possiblity (nay, the *reality*) of all good things are no-brainers and you're reading this hypothesizing my optimism and trust somehow got irreversibly beaten out of me, or there's an Irish melancholy written indelibly, helplessly on my genes. And maybe you'd be right.

Or maybe you think I've no clue--and no real respect for--how hungry, homeless, desperate, dienfranchised, and war-torn most of the world is. Maybe you think all this talk about believing in dreams and spring and everyone's goodness is all just a bunch of useless drivel. Maybe the world is so heavily steeped in torture and war and starvation, and my white, upper middle class musings and liberal ideals are not only nauseating and pointless, but do nothing to eliminate or alleviate any of it, and probably, in fact, perpetuate it. And again, maybe you'd be right.

But whatever the case, I can only start where I am, with who I am, and so I am going to try to believe in spring from now on. It's probably an obnoxious luxury that I even get to think about these things--someone who's wondering where their next meal is coming from most likely doesn't care about whether or not they believe in spring.

But thankfully it's a metaphor, people. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I bet everyone has evidence they are blind to--evidence of the beginnings of change; evidence of opportunities and open doors; evidence of the tender buds of their highest self breaking the soil--and these hints from the universe, if noticed and nurtured, can begin a revolution in one's life.

And everyone has seasons like winter in which everything looks lifeless and bereft of possibilites to the naked eye--seasons that are begging to be appreciated for simple joys, while at the same time we do the work of winter-warmth, and prepare ourselves for the abundance we know is surely coming, whether it is an abundance we are simply given, like dandelions, or one we work have to work for, like a vegetable garden.

So I'm going to start believing in spring. It could be the beginning of a whole new way of living. Next winter before the dark cold descends I think I'll paint on the walls of my heart a poem I have somehow loved for years yet forgotten each year, and with any luck, it'll shimmer most days like a sunrise inside my eyelids, lighting my way:

The inside chance

Dance like a jackrabbit
in the dunegrass, dance
not for release, no
the ice holds hard but
for the promise. Yesterday
the chickadees sang fever,
fever, the mating song.
You can still cross ponds
leaving tracks in the snow
over the sleeping fish
but in the marsh the red
maples look red
again, their buds swelling.
Just one week ago a blizzard
roared for two days.
Ice weeps in the road.
Yet spring hides
in the snow. On the south
wall of the house
the first sharp crown
of crocus sticks out.
Spring lurks inside the hard
casing, and the bud
begins to crack. What seems
dead pares its hunger
sharp and stirs groaning.
If we have not stopped
wanting in the long dark,
we will grasp our desires
soon by the nape.
Inside the fallen brown
apple the seed is alive.
Freeze and thaw, freeze
and thaw, the sap leaps
in the maple under the bark
and although they have
pronounced us dead, we
rise again invisibly,
we rise and the sun sings
in us sweet and smoky
as the blood of the maple
that will open its leaves
like thousands of waving hands.

~Marge Piercy

In the meantime, though, it's now April. Pear and cherry blossoms confetti the walk; tulips are at their neon zenith; the single-minded, industrious bumble bee and earthworm have come out of hiding; playgrounds are stirring with the squeal of swings and fresh child-shouting; and I am headed to the bright outdoors with two little boys to notice, breathe in, and believe in it all.