by Mara Snipes
Where I live, winter is cool and wet and spring is always right on its heels. It arrives overnight, much earlier than you’d expect; it wakes you up with a gentle whisper then proceeds to blow your mind for the rest of the day with all of the things you forgot you loved about spring. The exact details of those things, small moments of miracle and madness that set into motion waves of infatuation, seem to change over time. But the spirit does not, it just finds new ways to pull you wholeheartedly into next season, then the next.
During these first few days, spring causes quite a stir with an exuberance that’s hard to miss. But to stay current, to find new ways to access these delicious feelings, the trick is to listen, to watch closely and look for clues. To find the universal in the specific, the crux of all and everything in something as small and temporary as eating breakfast with the sun on your back. Sounds of a family having dinner filtering out of an open window on your walk home, how the night sky is different when you take the garbage to the curb, windswept afternoons on rain-rutted trails and the calm that settles in the evening. These pleasures are new and will likely be different next year, but they inspire a sense of freedom and possibility that has overwhelmed me around this time each year since I was a child.
Now consider this: a contrary impulse, we are human beings after all, that asks you to return to past joys to capture that spirit, to repeat patterns endlessly despite diminishing returns. It’s natural, it’s familiar, we seek out what’s worked for us and try to find it again. But we’ve gotten ourselves stuck by attaching to the details, by loving the song instead of the joy it brings, by acting out familiar habits now devoid of meaning instead of forging new paths to intimacy itself. We love things instead of the emotions they inspire, and find them hard to let go of when a departure is long overdue.
As the old familiar paths start to constrict, these habits no longer bring joy and growth, but suffering. I shake my head to think of how many times I’ve learned this lesson, and how recently! How fresh it always seems when it strikes me again. My nature is nostalgic and sentimental, which often points me to the past for comfort and meaning. That I married such a forward-looking partner has resulted in an unexpected alchemy that keeps us firmly in the present day.
It also keeps us in motion with adventurous mini-vacations. I would have fallen over if you’d told me a few months ago that by now, just last weekend, I would be riding a roller coaster with my daughters and discussing their preferred clothing styles. That they could navigate this and lots of other things without my help, after so many years of dependence and nurturing, seems both amazingly foreign and perfectly right. Of course I still have all sorts of interesting items of theirs stashed in my purse, but I can feel the familiar winds of change.
People say that kids keep you young. I think kids keep us current. They teach us to grow and change and hold things loosely, to forget about princesses and start loving horses, because it’s not the toys they love but the spirit of imagination, adventure beyond their daily lives, and a chance to create a whole new fantastic reality. The horses have already been swapped out for a clan of wild cats with an intricate social structure and names that twist and overlap and confuse anyone over ten years old. But that’s now, that’s current, and it’s their pathway to access their deeper drives toward independence and adventure.
They make this change easily, but not without some seeking. Weeks before the cat thing, caught in a phase of uncertainty about how to channel interests and passions in the forward-backward motion of age nine, my daughter approached me and wanted to spend some time together playing something we haven’t even talked about in a year. I was surprised but went with it, and the awkwardness at finding a way into our old game was apparent. When I asked my daughter why she wanted to play that game, such a reach into the past, her intentions were made plain: she wanted to laugh together and remembered that we used to laugh a lot when we played this game. She wanted to connect with me, to access those feelings of intimacy and closeness, but the old paths didn’t fit anymore.
It was soon after this that we found ourselves shouting together, hair wild in the wind, side-by-side on the roller coaster. Breaking new ground, finding new language, learning and learning again at every turn. We are creating new ways to reach each other as life changes. We change, we grow.
With this lesson fresh in my mind, in truth I can’t imagine a life much different than today. But it’s the big themes I’m attached to, because the details will surely change. Later this week, to be specific… we’re moving to the next town over, to a big rambling house built long ago right into the rocky hill, with sun and trees and unpredictable wildlife visits. What this new life will look like is impossible to say, the details aren’t with me yet, but I have faith in the future just beyond my reach. I’m clearing space for tomorrow to reach out to us, a ready path for everything that’s next to pull us toward it. Toward joy, hope, adventure, intimacy, freedom, the magic of creating meaning out of the unknown and ever-changing.
If I’m finding this transition difficult to manage, it’s the concept of time that seems confusing: how my seven days add up to much more than a week, the weeks barely contained in a month, the passion and progress of my months hard to imagine all fitting neatly inside another year. The inertia of a large family makes us a perpetual forward motion machine, guided by the instinct to stay together, to follow our adventurous hearts, to react to new things in a natural way. But my nature is to put on the brakes, slow down, and the concept of time sometimes seems laughable. This skewed concept of time doesn’t bother me when I let go, the old habits fall back and make room for the new, because those things on which we hang our hat are outside of time. They are woven into our lives and move through the physical things and daily routines that surround us, like a wave is energy moving through water. I put my feet on the ground today, eyes and heart open, ready for the pull.