Saturday, May 7, 2011

I forgot how green

I forgot how green the world is in May. Truly I did.

It's been such a cold, damp spring that only now is everything alive starting to believe that the winter is past. My elderly friend and former neighbour told me once that in our neck of the woods, asparagus grows between Mother's Day and Father's Day, but this morning at the market, the only asparagus to be found was withered and woody, imported from California and Peru.

But the thin green straws of lilies of the valley are emerging from the brown shoots that precede and protect them. Tulips have sprung out of nowhere - from small shoot to bloom in less than a week, it seems. Trees are almost chartreuse, with baby buds, limp maple flowers that will drop as the leaves unfurl.

The grass these days is an incredibly verdant velvet. Most of us have not yet found time to mow the lawn and so it has a bit of a shagginess to it, like the lush pelt of some great green beast.

The air smells green and fresh and the light is clear and brilliant, almost blinding.

Ever heard of pathetic fallacy?

That's what this feels like to me. After a few sorry months of strain, we are emerging on the other side. Not one bad thing has happened in our immediate household for a few weeks now. We finally have been bolstered by support from the medical system. I've finally dared to relax, to breathe, to dream.

All well and good. Breathe a sigh of relief. Raise a glass. But, first, a confession: when things went south, so did my attitude.

Years ago, I heard someone tell a story about being completely dirt-broke poor, with not a penny to spare, and a tremendous amount of strain to even make the most basic ends meet. What I remember most about this story was what this person did: every day, she changed her underwear several times. She did it as the only treat she could afford, because it was one thing she could do to remind herself that despite her straitened circumstances, she was a worthwhile human being.

One thing you should know about me is that I never think anything will end. I'm always and forever surprised and sad when a vacation comes to an end, when a stage of life passes into the next, when I get to the bottom of a bowl of M&M's. I want every good thing to last forever. The flip side is that I never believe the bad times will end either. I steel myself for a filling at the dentist - more than I need to. I miss my husband terribly when he goes away, with a feeling like homesickness. I brace myself against winter, expecting it to be eternal.

And then spring comes and dazzles me once again.

I don't know if this is something easily changeable. Perhaps it is a longing for eternity. All I know is that far from changing my underwear several times a day this winter, I put on sackcloth and ashes, and a survival suit - and just cleaned up the vomit, called the insurance company, begged for doctors' appointments, did the work that needed doing, made meals, ate and slept.

Only here's the thing. Every year, in the cold of winter, after the Christmas decorations have been packed away, I buy pots of forced bulbs and I watch as the snow accumulates outside and the audacious green shoots push bravely upward.

It is possible to find spring in the dead of winter.

And while what melted the ice of my life was the sympathetic and professional help the naturopath gave my daughter, what brought bits of spring into my life was when I finally remembered that I was not required simply to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but I was allowed to dance. Even when things were still worrisome and frustrating.

For years, I've saved a quote from a Starbucks coffee cup on my kitchen windowsill. It reads: There are many times when dancing is the most unsupportable, ridiculous, unexpected and necessary action. Life should be spent finding those moments and tap dancing through them.

I knew about the coffee quote and I knew about the underwear change, but I forgot. I'm writing today in case you are as foolish as me, believing what your circumstances tell you about who you are rather than remembering to dance and planting a little bulb of belief that spring will come.

It will be greener than you ever remembered.

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