March 14, 2012

Spring Forward

Your husband is sleeping. You hear his deep, regular breaths, feel the warmth of his fingers next to yours under the blankets. You do not have to look to know the contours of his face at rest in the dark.

You turn onto your side, pull your knees up closer to your chest. Flex your toes.

When you get up, you do so quietly, so as not to wake him, and tiptoe out, stepping into the cold of other rooms. You check your phone: 3:07 a.m. For a while you stand at the window, listening to the wind, watching it move the shadowed branches in the grove, thinking. When you pad back through the house--eyes heavy now, decisions put off until morning--the stove clock blinks 2:36, and you accept this like any dream's incongruence. It is only later, that morning, that the two of you realize it is Daylight Savings, and that you were awake in the strange moments when in some parts of the house it was one hour and in others it was sixty minutes before. You wonder how you managed to float so easily between them.


The recent months have left you feeling pulled in a dozen directions. On any given day, the counter top is full of pretzel sticks in bowls, renewal forms for home insurance, receipts that need to be filed, guitar picks, the bottom half of the blender, and multiple to-do lists. At work you are juggling too many plates and the kids sense it. On the road you are learning German and questioning politics and studying the disappearing snow. You are forgetting friends' birthdays. You are forgetting what it means to go slow.

So when the day of Daylight Savings turns into a day of sun-filled light, a need pushes up inside you like a blade of eager grass. It is 64' in Minnesota in early March. People are everywhere. Children call to each other from the tops of playgrounds, fathers toss weathered baseballs to young sons, elderly couples in winter coats walk hand-in-hand, and your neighbor lays in her backyard on a lawn chair in her swimming suit. You feel the loop-knots of a dozen other strings tugging on you, but you shake your arms a bit, roll your neck, and step into the warmth and onto sidewalks that you have missed for months. Eventually, after multiple mental reminders, you walk them with simple, slow strides.

Long past where you had earlier decided to turn toward home, you find yourself on the edge of the local lake, sitting on a concrete stoop that in summer moors a fishing pier. You have kept your face tipped sunward all the way here, letting the warmth loosen your muscles. It is lazily, miraculously, that you look out in front of you, and with surprise, strangely, that you realize the lake it still covered by a white plate of ice. Incongruous, you think, and unlike the night before, you pay attention.

There is warm and wet, cool and dry, life and death, all of it somehow either blazing or blinding on each side of you. You are sitting in spring: brown grasses, wet earth, chickadees returning with the geese. The open water at your feet displays a wet world of dark oak leaves, perfectly shaped. But ahead of you, three feet out, is winter wrapped in such crystalline white. Two thick logs sit one hundred yards from any soil, chairs for some February fishermen. There's a dry, purple mitten next to them. You are in short sleeves. How does one account for such things?

Then from over the hill the wind, an approaching ghost train from yet another world, barrels down toward the water, sends crackling leaves and fallen branches flying, makes you shiver with all its premonition. It arrives. You cross your arms around yourself against the cold. Moments later it is calm again.

It's then that you hear it: incremental movements, a cleckcleckcleckcleck, the sound of a million minute stretches. In front of you the ice--a centimeter thick and porous with air--rises with the water, the wind's sigh, and melts. It shimmers and shatters brilliantly there. Then it settles back. Gives over to memory. Returns to ice. For a while you are quiet, listening and watching and feeling the way the in-between can be.


That evening the day stays light until 7:30, or 6:30, whichever it is where ever you are. You stand on the deck looking out at the pale blue sky, your husband next to you, talking. The air cools as the sun sinks, and as you talk about taxes, to-do lists, June, struggling kids, the way the past has slid into a future you cannot prepare for, not really, you think about the edges of lake ice hardening, revisiting that earlier familiar season, and you think about the water beneath, straining toward days of algae and fish and warmth. That incongruence. You think about what it means to float on both water and ice. The breath and the stepping out. How perhaps it is easier than you thought.

You are about to tell him this, your partner in all this big dreaming, these back-and-forth days, these in-betweens. But you can see his breath now in the dark, regular and deep, and you don't have to say a word.

You turn toward him, wrap your arms around his shoulders. Rise up on your toes.

22 comments:

  1. One of the most gorgeous pieces of writing...you captured life and spring....hauntingly. Someone (and now I can't remember who) wrote that spring is not a season, but a state of mind. You captured that, perfectly. Thank you, Emily...

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a stunning post, dear Emily. I hope you send it out somewhere. And yes, somehow it's always easier than we think...as you say, breathing, and stepping out, which both amount to letting go. So glad to hear your voice this morning!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, ladies. I still don't feel that this essay is quite done, but I also had a strong need to just get it out there. Maybe another lesson in floating? Thanks so much, as always, for your support.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is beautiful, dreamy writing. I love where you started - that hour overnight when we shift back into Daylight Savings Time. There is so much waiting beneath this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As always, the loveliest of writing, of showing us that seasons are more than a physical transition.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am always pulled to borders, OMW, those times of transition. I didn't wake up Sunday morning knowing I would write, but...perhaps the day knew?

    And thank you, Audrey. I appreciate your presence here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. For starters I'm just trying to figure out how my counter, with all its junk, got into you house!?

    A beautiful accounting of today's strange world, the cacophony of life, and the tug and pull and silliness of it all.

    Emily, your writing is original and not like anyone else. It is beautiful and thoughtful, and it just pulls at the readers brain and heart strings. It is, to sum it up, astounding.

    And for your encore?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ha! Good to know we're not the only crazies with nothing placed where it's "supposed to go." When I was growing up, my mother painted small slogans and images on flat rocks, and the one I always loved the most said something like, "Creativity is messy." INDEED.

    And you humble me, Bill. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really liked this. It draws together nicely the seasons in the year with seasons in our life. There is more of a connection than I ever thought about.

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, Ryan. Glad to have you here!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Never stop writing, Emily. This is beautifully written and layered with richness and depth on all sensory levels. Beautiful..simply beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nice writing. I beleive you have several poems hidden inside your prose. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I also believe I actually know how to spell "believe."

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think you're right, Danny, and I'm glad to see you're an active revisionist. :)

    Thank you, Anon. It's strange to imagine my life without the desire to set it to words. I hope that never changes.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I read this quickly a few days ago, realizing immediately I wanted to read it again, later, when a quiet moment could be stolen from the work week. I'm glad I did because it only got better. I love how you swirl together the mundane with the wonderful creating a moment that is simple yet layered with complexity. So many beautiful paragraphs stacked together for one stunning post. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love your writing, Emily! What a sweet, thoughtful reflection, full of wonderful images.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I like that you used the word "swirl," SPT. I went for another walk this past weekend--the morning before all the lake ice melted--and the fog lifting up from the water was doing just that. Swirl also implies mixing, permeable surfaces... maybe something I need to work into a revision. Thanks for that!

    And thanks for stopping by, Jeff, and leaving a note. Hope you're acclimating to our northern climes with all their complexity!

    ReplyDelete
  19. A marvellous and rhapsodic hymn to the season, to the in-between hours of our lives and loves. Your writing thrills me, Emily; makes me aware of things just out of reach, floating beyond the rim of the world. And yet it is so very much a part of the world, in all its messy and magical moments and moods. Thank you for this, for showing me what's in between.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Julian, of course. I'm thrilled to have you reading! And so glad that you're a fellow chronicler of all that this messy and magical world can teach us.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is beautiful! You captured all of life's changes that keep moving forward with or without us!

    ReplyDelete