Spring is astonishing

I work in technology, and the epicenter of technology is in California. I have thought a lot about living in California, and repeatedly decided that I did NOT want to live in California. Many people transplanted to California talk about how they miss “the seasons”. I mean, paradise is great but it has no variety. I sometimes wonder in the dreariest days of early April (when according to the seasons I learned at the hands of English poets spring should be well along) whether the seasons are all that much to brag about.

May has had it’s fair share of showers

But then, oh glorious May! There is this thing that happens to color and sunlight in May that beggars explanation. It’s as though your eyes put on a saturation lens. Every color – from the blandest grays to the chartreuse grasses and indigo skies – looks more vibrant than you remember the world looking. The phlox is unrealistically pink, and soft to the touch. Fragrances – long forgotten out of doors – waft on the soft winds bringing news of nearby lilacs (my favorite flower). The way the golden light bends over playing children long into the evening hours seems like a double bounty. Not only is it a glorious, beautiful and rich light, but it lingers longer.

Spring is an excellent time for ambition. Oh, not as great as Fall. There is no better time for the embarking on great adventures than September (as Tolkien well knew). But when you step outside to mow your lawn for the first time in a calendar year and contemplate the land allotted to you, it occurs to you it’s not enough. You should put in a flower bed. You should plant some pansies. Heck, maybe you should buy out your back door neighbor’s yard and add it to your own! (I confess that latter is a fantasy I’ve entertained. Tragically, that neighbor has no interest in selling.)

Spring is the time of year when you make gardening commitments your July self will deeply rue. You know that, of course. Everyone knows spring decisions are unreliable. But you can’t help yourself. You don’t want to help yourself. You want to believe, in spring, that all things really are made new and you yourself are a different person. A greater person than you’ve been before. A person who will weed all year round.

My next door neighbor is just such a person. (If you’re one of the cognoscenti of my street, no this isn’t any of my neighbors you know.) Every year since they moved in they’ve seeded their lawn with new grass seed. They even usually water it (thereby going one up on me and my “only the strong will survive” attitude towards grass seed). But they don’t believe in actually MOWING said lawn. Those newly minted blades of grass poking up through the “one-step” grass seed/fertilizer & soil mixes will be grow unmolested until August, at which point they’ll be crudely mown (by a weed-whacker I believe) for the sole time in the year. (Unless I get sick of it and sneak over and mow it first, which is deeply tempting.) Still every spring, they plant. You can’t fail to admire optimism like that.

Proto plum

I have continued to follow the progress of my plum tree with avid interest. The winter moths have not arrived. I don’t know if that’s “yet” or if they’ve been successfully suppressed. I have found today a tiny, embryonic plum. I haven’t given much thought to the growth patterns of fruit, but since you generally only see the flower and the fruit, I thought the inbetween stages somewhat invisible – the ridiculousness of which belief becomes apparent as quickly as writing it down. They are indeed there, those minute plums. The one I spotted is less than the size of an olive pit – much less. But it is there.

The tragedy of my spring is that I am not overambitious just once (or even twice a year). I suffer from chronic overambition. I would say that this year has been extra super ridiculously busy, but if I’m honest with myself it’s actually only a notch or two busier than usual. A good portion of the extra busyness comes from the Pastor Nominating Committee, which I’m chairing. We’re meeting three times this week. And for a total of about 6 horus. And I have homework on top of that. The efficiency maven in me keeps looking at how we might do this faster & better, but it’s a process that resists shortcuts.

This guy would like you to know he is NOT a spiritualist and does not condone the ridiculous stuff his son gets up to. His son, meanwhile, has his name on the plot in no less than FIVE spots.

I find myself caught between two powerful feelings – on one hand the feeling that this is all to much and I absolutely have to slow down. On the other hand, there’s this pressing and persistent guilt for all the things I have not done, which I have not put my hand to. I do absolutely nothing for the PTO. I would love to do more things with town history, but I’ve never even used the brand new microfiche machine in our library. (Although I’ve dispatched others for information found therein!) I really want to put up a sign marking the Nobility Hill Historic district. Two in fact. I just need designs. And money. Those just need… time. I haven’t seen half my friends in far too long. I turn down party invitations I’d rather attend. I don’t have season tickets to the theater. I don’t practice my trumpet. And I wish I spent more time with my kids. They’re neat people. It’s been ages since I attempted anything complicated in the kitchen. And the prime time of foraging season is here and I have not set foot in the woods.

In my defense, this weekend I did see “Guardians of the Galaxy” (both 1 and 2) with my kids. I finished reading “The Two Towers” for the, uh, I have no idea how many times I’ve read it. But when you have your own personal “director’s cut” (which I *didn’t* read) you may have read it rather often. I did a ton of PNC work. I cleaned up the “clothes to donate” pile. I took a 3 hour tour of Lindenwood Cemetery. (GUYS! Stoneham was a hotbed of spiritualism! The ghost stories just write themselves, really…) We went out to dinner with the gift certificate we were given in gratitude for rescuing a hiker last year. I played two board games. I attended one soccer game (our team won!). I went to church, and the International Potluck afterwards. We saw Gabriel at the theater with the boys (it was excellent!). I mowed the lawn and the space where I want to put the “Nobility Hill” sign. We went for a run. I made dinner & we watched “Bertie & Jeeves”. And then I realized I had no idea what to write for a blog post and went for the extremely creative “well what’s the weather like” prompt.

And honestly, this was not a super duper busy weekend. Not even the fullest spring-intoxication can beguile more commitments out of me!

Thane was a very effective goalie!

One last word on spring. I’ve often contemplated the shift in metaphor that separates us from our forepoets. Both Homer and Keats – worlds & thousands of years apart – have seen real live sheep in the flesh. They know what they are to the touch. What a clean pelt feels like. How a contented sheep sounds. These are things that thousands of years of history have in common with each other. And they are things which have abruptly been removed from the common experience – or at best made isolated and rare. The rich metaphors are drying out in a world that no longer does the things we’ve always done.

But the seasons still remain. The stars have faded (when is the last time you glanced out and the sky was clear enough you could see the Milky Way?). The livestock are gone from our lives. We neither sow nor spin nor shear nor reap (the latter being especially true for my neighbor). So what remains as connection is all the more precious. The seasons remain. The daffodils still bloom, as once they did. Our hearts are “pricked” and we long to go on “pilgrimages”, just as Chaucer said. Even as much falls away, or becomes an intellectual adventure, we still share those seasons with those who came before us.

And that, my friends, is why I will not move to California.

Goslings are cute. Geese are jerks.
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Talking about the weather

There is something fundamental to humanity that we notice and talk about the weather. Even though we are climate-controlled dwellers of enclosed homes, we will turn on our televisions to discover whether the 25 feet between our car and our place of work will be a sunny or damp sojourn. We never tire of talking about the weather: praising, blaming, complaining.

This week, however, the weather has made a real impact on my life, and more so on the lives of my friends. This weekend, it rained. It was epic. There were the standard jokes about ark-building (which actually DO get old, thanks). Still the deluge continued. By the time it was all over, we’d had more than 10 inches of rain. (Thank HEAVENS it didn’t come down as snow!) On Monday, as it was supposed to stop raining and wasn’t, I got a call from a friend. The water was coming up through the floorboards. Did I have any advice? Of course my advice was to get out and come to my home. Thus it was that three people and four cats joined us for two days. I’d love to say there’s a happy ending, but in truth they’re still displaced. All of their furniture is ruined, many of their belongings are, and they aren’t likely to be back in their own home until next month sometime.

Then, on Tuesday, the weather has been trying to win us back by being the most lovely, clement, soft, gentle, comfortable version of itself you can imagine. The last three nights the boys have come home by way of the park, where they have run and laughed and slid down slides and climbed and NOT WORN THEIR JACKETS because it was so warm. The extra light has been a halo of joy in my evenings.

Sunlight on a slide
Sunlight on a slide

On our walk home, I’ve watched with great interest the progress of the bulbs. By the bank, where there’s obviously a heat leak, the tulips and daffodils are likely only a week away. There’s a bank of snowdrops on a south-facing lawn. In my own front garden, the irises are out and lovely (I do not remember planting them, I confess!). The crocuses are significantly behind them. The daffodils are about 2 inches high. The hyacinth will bloom this weekend. I suspect the 70 degree weather on Saturday will also bring forth the first of the forsythia, which would be unlovely at any other time but in the newest days of Spring is a shocking delight of sunlight in flower form. I may find an excuse to travel along a local road, once on my commute, which I know is early to the forsythia party.

If past experience holds true, I will likely get very optimistic and convinced that really! This is Spring! I will go and buy some bedding plants. Then we will get 2 feet of snow.

This has never stopped me. In my defense, it also has never stopped Lowe’s from enabling my optimistic bedding-plant behavior.

I love this time of year. It is so miraculous. Through the winter I have looked at pictures of my sons, nearly naked in a lake, and wondered what sort of abusive mother I was to permit them to do that. Weren’t they cold? Imagination and memory fail to stretch to a time of warmth, or even heat — of overhead fans whirring and windows wide. We have stopped believing it is possible by the time spring comes. And yet, here it comes. Full of delights and remorse for the way we have been treated through the cold winter. And we fall in love all over again.

Thane loves the sandbox
Thane loves the sandbox