Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Suddenness of Spring

I possess only the most rudimentary understanding of what it means for time to pass. I see the sun cross the sky, the tides shift. I watch closely as the seasons change; I witness the wrinkles that appear around my eyes and mouth; I notice how my mother’s gait has slowed and realize my younger siblings are and have been full-fledged adults for decades now. My current students, many of whom have taken classes with me several times over their college careers, entered as socially awkward freshmen and are about to leave, four years later, with new depths of confidence. They have grown up before my eyes, and it has clearly been a process, but it also seems to have happened overnight.

Here, on the shore of Lake Ontario, winter is suddenly spring. The season seems to have staggered through its changes in a one-step-forward/two-steps-back kind of way. The crocuses bloomed, it snowed; the robins arrived; the temperatures dipped back into the teens; the daffodils began to appear, more snow; the mourning doves established themselves, an ice storm hit. And then one day in April snow fell in the morning and had already melted by afternoon. That was a sign that the ground had warmed, a sign that the snow was gone, at least – we hope – for half the year. Days that teased us by lingering in the 30’s suddenly leapfrogged into the 50’s, skewed twice in succession into summer 80’s. Lawns turned green, the forsythia exploded into a yellow cascade, the lines at Rudy’s and Bev’s started to lengthen as everyone began craving ice cream cones and French fries eaten lakeside.

In a few weeks, late spring, I’ll turn 50. That has been a puzzling and staggered process, too. Often I feel like I’m as carefree as I was in my 20’s, or as happy as I was in my 30’s. If I stare into the mirror, I’ll concede that I look 40-something. It’s only in glimpses, only in moments, that I realize: fifty. I feel it in my bones, in my heart. The disappointments and regrets I harbor are those of a 50-year old. My hopes and dreams are now tempered by decades of experience. The phases of my life feel as though they overlap: I can easily locate the girl of 8 who loved to read, the teenager who couldn’t imagine a better afternoon than one spent making out with a boy, the college drop-out, the young lesbian falling in love and buying a house, the writer crossing the country to study her art, the teacher, the woman with aching bones, the woman who has come to understand that failure is inevitable, enduring, necessary. These memories are like a deck of illustrated playing cards – I can shuffle through them and smile, I have no trouble recalling those girls, being those girls, those young women. It is a private comfort to be able to drift back into those years, the adventures and heartbreaks. Shuffle the deck, and I’m 30 years younger. I’m six. I’m nineteen. Shuffle again, and I’m smack in the middle of middle age.

It seems that just last week there was snow on the ground. It seems that just last week I was a girl. Today, the sun is shining. But hold on: there’s a chill in the air that can’t be denied.


  1. That was gorgeous, ageless, and timeless

  2. beautiful. life feels so rich all of a sudden.