When Spring Comes

The equinox about 10 days away, it’s nearly spring. But, in recent weeks despite the birds singing, the rise of the light, and the swaths of daffodils painting over winter, the hopeful sense of spring has felt postponed.

I recognized the signs that spring was being nudged out of line several evenings ago at an art show that Kathy and I attended. The focus of people’s attention to the art that was hanging on the walls had been shifted to an invisible force reportedly waiting to get into the room.

There were discussions about the absence of the show’s curator due to her physician’s concern for the vulnerability of an older woman she was caring for in her home. There were remarks and jests about a sudden shortage of toilet paper, the long lines at Costco, a trip to Italy that had been canceled, and there were references to phone calls people had made to ‘their mom and dad; their sister in Washington, an old friend they were worried about in New York.’

And there was a significant change as to how acquaintances and friends greeted one another.

Hands and arms that were extended in greeting were often responded to by retreating steps and raised palms that signaled “no.” Half-turned bodies with elbows extended forward as an alternative to hugs were offered.  Fist-bump gestures were accompanied by the gently-feigned stances of a boxer.  Shoes said the hellos that hands and arms could not.

Our lives and our perspectives can change in a breath.

Over the last month, I’ve been working on a wooden walkway and some decking that runs along a portion of a creek beside our house. The old wood has rotted away and the cedar I am replacing it with – once sawn – gives off the fragrance of camphor and resin, amber, citrus, the memory of a storage chest at my grandmother’s house when I was a kid, and the scent of a freshly sharpened pencil. Cedar also carries the fragrance of the forest underfoot in the springtime.

In the face of the unknown nature of a virus, it was both difficult and easy to say goodbye to friends at the art show that night; as difficult and easy I suppose as caution will be in the weeks ahead. I was thinking about this while working on the deck this morning, the vague feelings of anxiety I’ve started to feel when the phone signaled a message from one of my children.

“Good morning Dad. Mom said you working by the creek. What a nice day. Enjoy. Be careful. Call later. Love you.”

Standing in the spicey scented sawdust of a fresh-cut board I looked up from the message and the chatter of my mind and into the woods. My eyes traced the journey that the creek takes down the hill and towards our house, the path a sparrow was hopping as it rummaged for insects hidden in a stand of moss, the nearby posturing of the squirrel that follows me around our yard hoping for the occasional walnut I might throw in her direction, the reach of the greening tips of the trees overhead – the bright yellow march of crocus opening their petals to the sun.

I need to make some calls in the days ahead; send some messages to some people I’m probably not going to be able to shake hands with or put my arms around for a while. Tell them – let them know in some way that I’ve come to rely on their presence in my life. Give them some sense of how important they are.

••••••

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” Ernest Hemingway, The Moveable Feast