Pieces of April

I’ve got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet.

                             —Three Dog Night

Suddenly there are dandelions, bold and yellow, brash and arrogant, next to the violets nestled quietly in the rich green grasses of Spring. A yellow season—the bobbing daffodils, the outspoken dandelions.

I remember, randomly, picking dandelions for pay. There was an old lady—Wait. How funny: she was probably not much older than I am now, but in fourth grade, that gray-crowned, stern person seemed ancient, mysterious, threatening, and venerable. Her name was Mrs. Aitch, and she lived in the house across the street, lived there by herself: a widow.

Mrs. Aitch, most of the year, yelled at us: to keep our wiffle balls out of her flowerbeds, to keep our dogs off her lawn, to wipe our chalk off her sidewalk. But in spring, she recruited us to pick dandelions. She would buy as many as we could pick, and she’d give us a penny a plant. We could pick a lot of dandelions for that kind of incentive, and so, each spring, we had a temporary truce. She’d inspect the baskets full of brassy-headed weeds, counting carefully, biting her thick lower lip, and she would pat our heads. Then she would get out her change purse and count out our earnings as carefully as she counted the dandelions.

I was too shy to ask what she used all those bushels of dandelions for. Someone spoke knowingly about a kind of fritter their grandmother liked to make, the bitter greens dipped in egg wash and breadcrumbs, fried in olive oil, sprinkled with parmesan. Maybe, someone said, dandelion jelly—the flowers boiled in a big old pot until they relinquished their sweet essence. The older brothers were pretty sure she made dandelion wine, bottles and bottles of it, and drank it, maybe, all by herself, as she watched TV, and the neighborhood, from a chair in her front room.

We had never been invited inside her house. But from that chair, we guessed, she could spring to the door and yell in a shrill voice as soon as a child toed onto her lawn.

I imagined her slapping down a thick, dewy tumbler filled with amber liquid and heaving herself out of an old flowered chair, and hurrying, on thick legs, to push open her screen door.

One night, deep in cold February, deep in the heart of the night, there was a fire in our duplex. We threw on clothes randomly selected, caught the coats our parents tossed us, and shivered on the sidewalks as the firetrucks blared down the street.

The whole neighborhood came out, and, because it was not a bad fire, and no one was hurt and nothing was lost, it became a grand adventure. I huddled with my friends and speculated; my aunt and uncle drove down from their house, six blocks away, ready to take us all back with them, to find us makeshift sleeping places until the house situation could be assessed.

The adults gathered and conferred in low, serious voices, and Mrs. Aitch opened up her front porch door and slowly walked to join them. I don’t remember how long we watched the fire fighters ply their trade, or where I slept that night, or what I wore to school the next day. And I don’t remember the aftermath, except for the vague sense memory of fading smoke-smell permeating the house.

But I remember Mrs. Aitch hurrying across the street to join the grownups, her gray hair in a long, long plait that reached below the back of her knees.

Those are the memories dandelions unlock.

****************

Two years ago—maybe three—the city planted trees all the way down the hell-strip on Yale Avenue, from Dresden Road to Normandy Drive. And this year those young trees, having rooted and acclimated themselves, having decided, “This is where I live now; might as well make the best of it,”—well, they all burst into glorious bloom.

Their blossoms were snowy white, and they wafted a sweet light fragrance.

It seems like they bloomed on Monday, and on Tuesday, the petals began their slow drift to the ground. It was, sort of, like walking in a make-believe snowstorm, the kind where I can enjoy the drift without worrying about the consequences. And it made me think for some reason of crowning the May Queen back in the day. The weather was a little slower there than it is here; early in May the fruit trees were just blooming, and we could be pretty sure, in western New York State, that the snow was finally gone.

And May was the month of Mary, the Blessed Mother, with feast days in her honor—the Annunciation, the Visitation. And it was a month to pray for peace, one of the Popes had decided, and Mary, of course, was the Queen of Peace.

At St. Joseph School it was the month to crown the May Queen.

The girl chosen to crown the Queen was always a third grader. The selection process was mysterious and much muttered about, and to my shock, I was chosen, that one year, to do the crowning.

It was a tradition, probably, that predated Christianity, that sprang from roots we would have called pagan, that celebrated the blooming of flowers and the fertility of the world. But to us it was a solemn, beautiful day, one of the few in that old Church devoted to the Holy Feminine, and we loved its pastel, fragile power.

If the weather was good—and that year, it was,–the Crowning took place outside. A big statue of Mary was propped on a tall base, and wooden stairs were placed behind it. Surrounding the array were tubs and urns and vases of flowers—hothouse blooms and blossoms cut by grubby hands, placed in Anchor Hocking glass by patient mothers, and carefully carried on the long walk to school.

The awful priest led the prayers, and the black-robed nuns led us in song…and voices swelled the air because, dammit, when the nuns said SING, we sang. Mothers lined the sidewalks in nice dresses, unusual for a weekday, their hands clutching the straps of big purses.

I wore a floaty green and white dress, the exact colors of apple trees in the spring; I think it was a hand-me-down from my cousins in Buffalo. My contrary hair had been threatened and corralled into submission by spiky pink curlers kept on the whole painful night (it was GOOD to sacrifice for things spiritual) by hard little plastic cages. My too-short bangs curled briskly onto my forehead, and I wore white ankle socks and white patent leather sandals that hurt my feet and blistered my heels.

At the exact, certain time, my teacher prodded me in the back, and I climbed the wooden stairs and laid a wreath of flowers carefully on Mary’s cement head. At the moment of contact, I swore I felt a buzz of power enter my fingers and zzz up my arms.

And then it was over, my moment of glory; I climbed back down, and we went into the school gymnasium. We had dixie cups of juice and a cookie each, and then school began again. Mary wore her crown all that day; I checked on her before I walked home from school. But the next day, the statue and all the flowers were just gone….gone as surely and completely as my fleeting sense of fame and importance.

******************

Scents crescendo this week as I walk, and, approaching the first intersection on my morning wander, mulch tangs. But suddenly, the breeze brings me something else—something sweet and tender. It’s the smell of lilacs, and I love lilacs so.

In my first growing-up house, there was a bank of lilac bushes back by the old garage. They made a kind of safe corner, a place to sit and read on days when my mother said, “Get your lard butt OUTSIDE!” I would take my library book and head outside, drag an old chair into the shadow of the lilacs and read and dream until something stopped me. The sand box my father built was out there, too, and when the lilacs, their season so temporary, went by, their tiny lavender petals would stain the lake beach sand.

There was an impossibly young nun who taught first grade; I think her name was Sister Mary Theresa, and she loved us and Jesus and the Blessed Mother, and she believed we would grow into loving, devout people capable of great spiritual sacrifices. We loved her, too, and we tried very hard to fill the magnificent outlines she drew for us.

At the end of April, we did an Art Project; we created flower baskets from triple-layered construction paper. The baskets had handles designed to hang on the front door.

We were to smuggle them home, fill them with flowers, and hang them on the door of a special person on May 1st. Then we were to ring the bell and run away.

The special person, Sister said, would come to the door and find a wonderful Mayday basket. And because we had hidden, we would get the extra blessing of doing a lovely thing anonymously.

I filled my basket with lilacs, which were perfectly in bloom on May 1st that year. I had to twist and turn them off the bush, having no scissors or clippers, and the stem ends looked a little frayed and woody, but they made a lovely display in the construction paper. I had to hurry, though, because the paper was getting wet.

I hung the basket on the front door for my mother. I rang the doorbell hard, and then clambered off the porch.

Hiding breathless behind the rose bush, I could hear my mother stomp to the front door, fling it open, and stop.

“What the HELL?” she said, and the door slammed as she went back inside.

I waited a few moments, and then I crept out to look.

The May basket still hung there; looking at eye level for a PERSON, my mother hadn’t seen the basket.

I took it in to her, and she humphed a little (“Flowers from my OWN bushes,” she muttered), but she pulled a heavy green glass vase down from the way high up shelf and filled it with water. She trimmed off the frayed ends, and she put the lilacs, a truly magnificent bunch, in the center of the dining room table. I think they made her happy.

I loved the bushes even after the flowers faded, loved the tangled, thin trunks and the heart shaped leaves. This year, I think, we’ll take the old holly bush out from the corner of the front yard—its poor leaves have blacker spots than old Jack Sparrow. We’ll enrich the soil and put in a lilac bush. There’s room in that space for a sturdy outdoor chair, and a little bit of privacy for an outdoor read.

******************

I walk down Yale this morning, and the petals are all on the grass and sidewalks; the little trees are completely greened. The world around me has changed from Monday when I wore my winter coat to walk, to today when Mark said, as I pushed off, “You know, it’s almost MUGGY.”

I have walked through the blooming and the budding, through the birds’ raucous chatter, through thoughts of what this summer will bring and through memories long-buried. Aprils present, past, and future contributed their pieces, surprising and touching me with this week’s bouquet.

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The Beginning of the Long Goodbye

Greta
James and I came home from the college at almost two o’clock, and the dog was not downstairs. I found her snuggled into the extra blanket on my bed.

Mark had texted at noon, “Dog seems fine but I can’t get her to go downstairs.”

I lowered myself gently onto the bed next to Greta. Her head rested between her paws, and she rolled her eyes to look at me. Her tail thumped slowly. I stroked her silky head, gently rubbed her back, and I felt her little heart pelting frantically against her rib-cage. Her back legs were tucked beneath her.  She turned her head to lick my hand.

“Want to go downstairs, pup?” I asked her, and she sighed gently and laid her head back down between her paws.

***************

We got Greta at the Animal Shelter a few months after our beloved Holmsie died. We missed that sweet presence so. The house seemed empty.

“Never again,” we’d said, grief tearing us. But one Sunday, the car turned in at the shelter, maybe of its own accord.

Just to look, we said.

All of the dogs were named for celebrities. In one kennel, Roseanne, big and fluffy, bounced and crashed, barking for attention. In the kennel right next to her, Greta huddled in the farthest chain link corner, tiny, shivering, wanting to be alone. She was brown and black and white–there was a beagle among those terrier forebears–and her eyes, like Holmsie’s, looked as if they’d been outlined in kohl.

“Look at this,” I said, and Mark and Jim turned away from frolicking puppies and crouched with me by Greta’s cage.  She inched over; she licked our hands through the chain link. A volunteer appeared.

“She’s never done that before,” she said. “This is the first time she’s shown an interest in anyone.  Would you like to see her?”

Keys jingling, she went to let the little dog out of her pen.

“Yeah,” Mark said later, “they probably tell everyone that: oooh, she really responds to YOU!” But it didn’t matter: true or not, the imprinting was done. Greta was our dragon. She came home to stay about two weeks later, after a rigorous home visit and the requisite surgery.

**************

I could count on Greta’s routine. When I got up in the morning, she got up, too, marching to the back door and waiting while I turned the coffee on. I’d mix her food while she ran into the backyard, took care of urgent business, then stood at the door quietly until I let her in.

She’d wolf her breakfast greedily, then trot back upstairs, snuggling into the still warm spot I’d vacated, nestling behind Mark’s knees. I’d shower and dress, and when I was done, she would follow me back downstairs. She’d curl up under the chair at the head of the dining room table, sighing in that little cave, while I wrote my morning pages. She was waiting,–hoping, I always thought, that there might be some sort of breakfast meat.

That happened every day, a regularity since we’d moved into this house. But then suddenly, recently, everything began to change.

****************

We got Greta almost thirteen years ago, and the folks at the shelter weren’t sure how old she was. One vet guessed seven months. Another thought she was much older than that, maybe as much as two years old.

What the shelter people knew was how she’d arrived: a projectile heaved over the ten foot fence by someone who burst out of a running pickup truck, threw the dog, and left. A male volunteer, new to the work, ran to get her. When she wouldn’t budge, he slipped a leash around her neck and dragged her, as she whimpered, across sixty feet of gravel yard.

By the time someone ran out to intervene, her head was permanently turned away. And she definitely did not want to deal with men.

*****************

This spring, Greta started reacting to storms very differently. She had never liked thunder, but usually we could tuck her up next to us, talking to her soothingly, and she would settle down. But now she could not be comforted. She shivered violently. She panted. She followed me from room to room, tight at my heels.

Soon, thunder didn’t have to roll to bring on this response. A hard soaking rain was enough to send the little dog into hours of frantic shaking.

We tried a thunder shirt; she tolerated it, but it didn’t quell the tremors or the panting. The vet prescribed a pill, which seemed to work. But once the shaking started, we could not get the little dog to open her mouth and swallow the tablet.

We tried a blue gel, squirted between cheek and gum. She squirmed and struggled. She had a blue grin for days afterward.

Then she started rousing us every night, storm or no storm. I would startle awake, the little dog’s face pushed up next to mine. As soon as she knew I was up, she’d pace over to Mark’s side of the bed, and wake him, too. She panted, paced, and shook, until finally we got her settled between us in the warm bed, shivering into slumber.

Two hours later, her snout would be next to my face, jolting me awake.

I’d read somewhere that, in elderly humans, urinary tract infections produced symptoms that looked like dementia. Maybe dogs are like that, too, I thought. Maybe this is all Greta’s kidneys talking. I brought a sample in and had it tested. The dog’s kidneys were fine.

The vet prescribed different medications–some zonked Greta out completely during the day; she refused to eat or sleep, but by nighttime, the panting would resume. One pill made her nasty and snappish, not unknown behavior for a dog who didn’t much like visitors, but never before had she bared her teeth at us.

We were frazzled from lack of sleep; we were concerned for the little dog’s health. The vet did a complete physical and finally prescribed Prozac.

When she came in to talk with me after the battery of test results were in, the kind, compassionate vet sat down on her bench and sighed.

“Physically, it all checks out,” she said, and she paused. “This is all,” she said carefully, “consistent with what we sometimes see in elder dogs: early signs of canine dementia.”

Greta pushed her head beneath my knees and shivered.

Oh my, I thought. I took the dog, and her big bottle of Prozac, home.

**************

Greta circled us warily when she first moved in; we could see her tense, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for…yelling? Violence? We didn’t know. When we reached to pet her, she flinched.

She followed me throughout the house, avoiding the boyos.

She dragged her food dish underneath the kitchen table. She would only eat when no one else was in the room. She did not want to be combed. She would tolerate only a certain amount of petting. She was wary, on guard, waiting.

Then one day, I took her out into the side yard with me. I was weeding, kneeling on a little cement walkway. It was late spring; there was a warm sun. The air was pleasant and the concrete radiated sun-baked warmth. The dog sat, alert and watching for a few minutes, then she lowered herself to the cement warmth. In a few minutes, she had surrendered; she was sprawled and sleeping–sleeping deeply and heavily–the kind of sleep one is drawn into, the kind of sleep that, like seawater, closes over your head when exhaustion has reached its very peak.

I swear that, when she woke up from that deep bout of sleeping, she was different. I swear that, after that, Greta knew she was home.

*****************

The Prozac helped the dog make it through the night; she would wake us only once, and then she’d hop up into the bed, circle and sigh, and settle down for the rest of the night. And so we could sleep too, a very good thing.

But the changes didn’t stop. She was slowing down, and now we saw–the loving time-filters peeled away,–the pure white muzzle, the cloudy eyes. The toes bent and twisted by arthritis. Greta sighed when she heaved herself up after a long rest. She didn’t always run to get her dish when dinner was served. The mail would fall through the slot–an occasion that had always brought her, barking and challenging, right out of a full, deep sleep. But now she’d perk her head up for a moment, consider, and sigh herself back to snoozing.

I’m sure the mail carrier was relieved, but grief settled into our awareness.

********************

We thought, in those early days of Greta, that if we just loved her enough, treated her kindly enough, that she would morph into the friendly, wonderful sort of dog her predecessor had been. We noticed enough to suspect former abuse. She tensed at men with facial hair, growled and threatened and ran to hide. She went into full alert-mode when sharing a couch with someone and that someone lifted the TV remote. We imagined the back story there.

It took her months to realize no one was going to steal her food.

And she did settle in. She would jump into our laps in the evening when we gathered to watch TV; she would nudge our hands to pet her.

We went for long walks. We would take her, on weekends, to an enclosed ball-field at a nearby park. We would unclip the leash and yell, “Go go go!!” She would explode into movement, streaking around the base paths, a tiny blur.  She would run and run and run.  But she always came back; never once did she attempt to break away, to get shet of her restraints. The safety of family seemed much more compelling than the lure of freedom.

But she never opened up to other people. I remember my friend Kim, a true dog-whisperer, working with her gently, coaxing, narrowing the gap between them, until finally it reached a point past comfort and Greta turned and growled at her.

Kim was startled. “Animals LIKE me,” she said. “I’ve never had an animal I couldn’t win over.”

Greta was the first, stubborn and untrusting.

I talked to the vet, who sighed. “Sometimes,” she said, “it’s because of the abuse, and you can work, gently and patiently, and the dog might blossom, might accept new people. Sometimes, it’s just who the dog IS, a wary, suspicious little being. And you can do your best.

“And sometimes,” the doctor said slowly, “sometimes you’re dealing with the effects of abuse and neglect on a little creature who’s wary and shy to begin with. And then it’s really, really hard.”

She paused and looked at Greta, curled up under my bent legs, her back firmly to the doc who had poked and prodded her. “I think,” the vet said slowly, “I think, you’re dealing with both.”

***************

I couldn’t talk the dog downstairs. Her tail thumped when I talked to her, but she didn’t budge. I hated to leave her upstairs alone (What if she DIES? a panicky little voice entreated in my mind), so I pulled out my cleaning tools and attacked the bathroom. I scrubbed and sprayed; I threw towels and rugs down the laundry chute. I swiffered the floor.

I could hear the dog sighing.

I opened the closet door to put the mop away, and I saw the vacuum. Ha, I thought. That will move her. I plugged the machine in, and I pulled it out into the hallway and turned it on. I pushed and pulled down the hall, getting closer, watching the dog from the corner of my eye.

I wrestled the vacuum into the bedroom. She opened her eyes but didn’t budge. I circled around the bed, giving her a clear escape route, but she stayed, immobile, a stubborn little lump. I finished cleaning, shut off the machine, emptied the dust bucket, and went downstairs to get my book. I snuggled in on the bed with the dog, reading, her silky head under my hand.

Soon we were both snoring gently, enjoying a mid-afternoon nap on a cool spring day.

She finally went downstairs while I was in the bathroom, and she waited for me at the bottom of the stairs. She went outside agreeably, and she ate half a bowl of food.

In the evening she curled up on the carpet while we watched Doc Martin, and she climbed the stairs willingly to go to bed. But we knew that we had turned a corner.

Something had changed, and a new era had arrived.

*****************

Some days, now, the dog stays upstairs long after I’ve started the coffee and poured my cereal. Today is a good day: today she came downstairs with me, trotted right to the back door, ate her breakfast greedily. She’s sleeping now, Greta is, in her special corner of the couch. She is interested when the mail arrives. She rouses herself to sigh at the boy when he comes down for breakfast.

But an ominous countdown has begun in the back of my mind. The changes happen quickly. Our little dog, loyal and skittish, anti-social and demanding, is failing. The tethers begin to slip.

The rhododendrons have come back strong this spring; the little rosebush is covered, already, with buds. The Whomping Oak in the backyard released, quite suddenly, its winter load of old dead leaves and burst immediately into green-leafed glory. The birds are raucous, and there are three bunnies that meet to munch on clover in our backyard early every morning.

It is a spring when new life pushes boisterously. It is a spring of  last days, too, a spring, we realize, a spring when we begin to say the long goodbye.

*******

Here’s one source on canine dementia: https://www.thespruce.com/senior-dementia-in-dogs-3385016

 

This Year, It All Looks New

Bedroom re-do

The Spring sun shines through the bedroom windows, through crisp, newly washed drapes.  We have painted one wall–the window wall, the wall you see when you walk up the stairs and glance in the room–a light and sunny yellow. We have moved the bed: it was facing the windows; now it’s flanked by them.

Simple moves, simple expedients, and the entire room is changed.  The very size of it feels different–lighter, brighter, roomier.  The colors–a soft sky blue, the gleaming white trim, the gently beaming yellow of the window wall,–combine with the sandy color of the carpet to suggest to me, “Beach.”

It gives me summer thoughts; it makes me smile. I grab my empty coffee mug and I thump downstairs to where Mark is gathering his gear for work.

“I can’t get over that room,” he says.  “Finally, it’s the way it SHOULD be.  Who knew?”

I agree.  “What other little changes can we make?”

We look around the dining room, a room that collects the morning sun, and that also collects the clutter: Jim’s lists and books and DVD cases; Mark’s tax papers and work documents; my books and notebooks, pens and craft stuff.  There are chargers and cords–all the paraphernalia of modern electronic life.  The Sunday New York Times, which we never quite finish reading during the week after it arrives, waits hopefully on a side chair.

I want to pull up the rug like a cartoon wizard and snap it, watch items fly up into the air and then fall smartly into their very right places.

Or watch them disappear.

I smile at Mark, who is seeing his own vision of the room.  Perfect organization may not happen as easily as in my animated fantasy, but we’ll whip this room into shape.

There’s a lesson in the simple bedroom changes, a lesson about using what I already have to make things new, that I need time to ponder and absorb. I think this might be part of it: Things change.  Bad times pass.  Spring, always and eventually, comes.  But listening, seeing, processing, and then acting, is required.

********

It is just before noon, and it is a treat to sit at Giacomo’s in a corner booth, checking my email, and to see Susan’s sleek black SUV pull in. She’s got the rear-view camera; I always enjoy watching her back smoothly into a parking place.  (Me, I try to find a place where I can park facing out–no backing required, arriving or leaving.)

And it’s so good to see Susan, who retired in December, and who has been on the move– down the coast, across the country, over the ocean to that mythical island state–ever since.  A lunch hour won’t give us enough time to cover everything.

I meet her at the counter. I gather up a lovely spinach salad–those healthy greens are festooned with bacon and red onion and accompanied by slices of baguette (the crust crackles and explodes; the bread inside is fresh and tender), and my loaf of take-home sliced french bread. Susan gets her soup and sandwich.  We convene to the corner booth; we commence  the necessary work-information sharing.

Then Susan talks about her grand-twins, Cleary and Will, the tiny, sweet children of Laura and Josh. Barely over a year old, they are finally on the growth chart at their pediatrician’s.  Granted, they’ve just climbed on to that chart, topping out at two and three per cent, but they’ve arrived at that comforting ‘normal’ range.  (I think of how small Jim, in the 98th percentile for length and weight, seemed as a baby, and how fragile; I try to imagine parenting such amazing little morsels of humanity.)

After a very chaotic first year of life–a year involving long hospital stays, feeding crises, surgery, care issues, and, I know, nights and days of pain and worry for their parents and grandparents,–those babies, like any other babies their age,  are walking.

The sun shines in, and Susan and I move on to talk about what we’re reading, but there’s a happy grounding to our talk. I think about those miracle babies.  And now: a new chapter in their young and exciting lives begins.

What a nice lunch.

I head back to work.

*******

New chapters and new babies are on my mind tonight after I pack up my desk, and, driving home, I wonder how things are going in Maryland. That’s where Alison is making my friend Sandee–my friend who first knew me in Grade Five, when a tiny nun half our size and twice our ferocity terrorized us both (Oh, we could tell you stories…)–a first-time grandma.

Alison and John’s baby is a boy; the delivery’s a scheduled C-section; the name will be revealed on FaceBook. That tiny boy will be a new life, of course, and he’ll create new lives for Alison and John, who become, in that twinkling when they hear his first affronted wail, Mom and Dad.  And Sandee and Don take on new personae, too–they’re suddenly Grandma and Grandpa Hulihan, and they’re parents, now, of Mama Alison and Auntie Colleen.

And, here he is!  Welcome, Matthew Philip!
And, here he is! Welcome, Matthew Philip!

********

After dinner, Jim pulls out the vacuum, I get the duster; Mark carts some extraneous office furniture out to the sun porch. I organize the dining room, the cubbies, the shelves–tackle some of that clutter.  We’re getting ready for a special visit. Mark’s Mom, Pat, arrives on Saturday. It will be her first visit to Zanesville; it will be her first Easter as a widow.  A new kind of life for Pat, too.

We will show her the wonders of our adopted homeplace–the Y Bridge, the gardens, John Glenn’s boyhood house, the restaurant built with barnwood from Agnes Moorehead’s farm.  We’ll take road trips, we’ll hit book stores (Pat, whom I met when we worked together at the Book Nook, is a voracious reader), and we’ll watch movies in the family room; we’ll cook up big meals, and we’ll visit some of our favorite funky eateries.

We’ll talk and drink coffee,  maybe play some cards, and we’ll get to know Pat in her new role. Pat, after Angelo’s death. Pat, grieving, but moving forward.

**********

Just itching to open...
Just itching to open…

The daffodils have pushed up quickly and insistently, so fast, in fact, it seems like we watched them grow in Disney stop-action.  The first tentative blooms have opened.  By Sunday–Easter Sunday,–we’ll have a Wordsworth sea of those nodding yellow heads.

After a tough, dark winter: the Spring,–a time of rejoicing, and a time of somberly marking what’s been lost to the cold, cruel season.  A time to celebrate–first cries, first steps.  Anticipated blooming. Unexpected change.

I love the contemplative time January 1st offers every year, the fillip at the end of Christmas, the beginning of a new cycle.  But this time, this season, this Eastertide, always feels to me like the real beginning.  Here we emerge–sometimes from a cozy, dark quiet; sometimes from a deep and abiding sadness; and sometimes, from a season that handed us both–into the light.

Interior growth stirs; it inches; it parallels the real and raucous blooms of spring–the first bold yellows of daffs and forsythia mellowing into the lavendars of hardy lilacs and tender violets, the many tulip hues, the bold scent of lilies.

We’re launching, now, into future.  We must go forward,–no choice–, even when that means leaving something precious behind.  But it means, too, celebrations of new life and new progress; it means embracing new roles and seeing new possibilities.

Some years those changes, those beginnings, are subtle; I have to search for them; they’re like violets shying into the uncut grass.

This year, my head spins with all the loud, proud, joyful shouts of Spring, of time’s changes, of new life. This year insists I take time and be with this. I hope I’ll be awake and brave and strong enough to take this season’s lessons all the way home to my heart.

Whatever holiday or holy day you acknowledge, whatever seasonal joys you lift your face to, I wish you all the blessings of this amazing season.