It’s Spring – 2021

Thank God it’s spring!  It was a little late this year but finally I think we’ve got the real meal deal.  Mother Nature is changing her clothes, and Father Time is watching.  We mere mortals are only a small part of what they both have in mind, but, like every year since this planet was a baby, it’s going to be spectacular.   As of today, the birds and the bees are back, and they’re feeling frisky.

Unfortunately, spring doesn’t carry the kind of punch it used to.  These days, it’s mostly living on its rep.  We all know it’s spring, but in a world of central heating, air conditioning, mega-malls and concrete canyon streets, how many of us really care?  In the 21st century, we generally ignore the world around us until Mother Nature gets pissed off and starts slapping the crap out of everything in her path – then we pay attention.  Primitive humans weren’t this arrogant; that’s why they treated spring with some respect.

Back in the day, winter in the northern hemisphere was nothing to be trifled with.  Our species never physically adapted to the cold the way some of the other animals on this planet did.  However, despite our natural tendency to freeze to death, we insisted on living in climates that were inhospitable for four (or more) months of the year.  The only recourse for this stupidity was to outsmart Mother Nature, using the tools at hand – fire and the skins of more practical animals.  Plus, our instincts told us to hide in caves when a hostile world starting howling for our bones.  This strategy worked and we survived long enough to understand that — even though Mother Nature spent a good amount of time trying to kill us — eventually she would relent and treat us like her special children again.  And this was cause for celebration.

As we evolved beyond beetle-brow tough to early-human clever, we must have realized that these constantly changing seasons were not random.  They had a pattern.  When winter was over, the leaves came out.  From there, only a Neanderthal wouldn’t put two and two together and realize, once the leaves started to fall, winter was coming back.  (That’s why there are no more Neanderthals, BTW.  Just sayin’.)  With that in mind, it wasn’t a Cro-Magnon leap of intelligence to figure out that, with a little planning, we could gather food and firewood during the good weather, store them away, and a smart cave family could sit out the winter in relative comfort.  Thus, instead of hanging out in the cave, shivering and getting skinny all winter, we had some leisure time to put that big brain or ours to work.  We watched the sun, we watched the moon, we noticed when the ice started to melt, when the birds came back and when the bear two caves over woke up grumpy, hungry and looking for a fight.  This was all important stuff, because the more we knew about the seasons, the more likely it was that we’d be around to see a few of them.

Unfortunately, climatology hadn’t been invented yet, and so humans simply filed all these various discoveries under “Mother Nature: Whims and Idiosyncrasies.”  But Mother Nature was real.  She made the flowers bloom, the warm breezes blow, and warmed up the sun.  So, when winter was over, it made sense for primitive humans to take a minute, be polite and say thanks.

These days, we don’t much care for Mother Nature.  After all, for the last two hundred years or so, we’ve been fighting with her for supremacy on this planet.  There are some who say we’re winning and some who say we’ve already lost.  Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t seem to give a damn, either way.  Our egos are so secure we no longer thank her — or anybody else — for our existence.  However, on a morning like this one, in the first sunlight of what’s going to be a perfectly gorgeous day, I tend to get a little caveman-humble.  I hear the birds putting on the brag, see an ambitious green sprig forcing its way through the sidewalk and maybe — just maybe — sniff a sweet change in the air.   And it all tells me something special is happening again this year — and it’s going to fantastic.

Thanks, Mother Nature!

Written some years ago and reproduced every time I’m overwhelmed by the magic of the season.

Autumn — Part 3

When you’re just past forty and ex-husband/childless, you take October seriously.  It’s time to haul out the big socks, buy a few books and start planning the excuses to avoid Thanksgiving with the family.  It’s time to shop – for dinner party wine and those old-fashioned Christmas cards because it’s fun to be the old-fashioned aunt.  It’s time to go back to the park – crisp-cold and quiet.  Walk home in the dark.  And make all-day Sunday soup that simmers the entire apartment until the guests arrive.  It’s time to hide the summer clothes and put a tea towel over the bathroom scales and think about yoga – in January.  It’s time to devour pages of Nordic detectives, deep into the twilight of an early afternoon.  It’s time to drink kick-off-your-heels tea and check what’s on TV.  It’s time to take your lunch in a thermos and go for drinks after work and fend off well-meaning blind dates.  It’s not that she didn’t like well-meaning blind dates; they were fun, too.  But when one turns into two and two turns into more, it’s better to move on before normal turns into a nuisance.  The truth was she had no intention of taking on the open-ended responsibility of making someone else happy, because she was already happy, perfectly content to be covered by her own life like a cozy knitted afghan thrown over her shoulders.  Content to choose her own friends, never wash anybody else’s underwear or negotiate what to have for dinner – especially on the nights when it was going to be sweatpants and ice cream and Rosamund Pike.  She was content to do what she wanted, when she wanted — without lame explanations or nagging regrets.    

Of course, she did have some regrets.  She’d gone to university like all the women in her family and had had high expectations.  She thought it would be nice to live in a retro-poor apartment with too many stairs and a cat named Sniffles.  Maybe have some adventures.  Maybe be seduced by a poet who would leave her broken when he went back to his own bohemian tribe.  Then collect all his verses and put them in a shoebox at the back of the closet for her children to find.  But instead, she’d settled for four years in a dorm room — plastic and new — and sex with a waiter, a boyfriend and Rachel’s brother Danny (but she’d married him, so that didn’t count.)  She did have a shoebox, though, but there were no secrets in it and no children to find it, so….  Sometimes, she thought she should regret the years of her marriage – but she never did.  It had been serious and it had been fun, and she hadn’t overstayed her welcome, moving on before she’d completely lost herself in their married routines.  Although she did wish she’d taken the bread maker – that would have been nice.  But she was young then and unaware that, after some months alone, on a chilly kick-leaf October morning, she’d fall in love with her own future, and, like a fairytale princess, live happily ever after.

Autumn — Part 2

Photo – Carolyn Bourcier

Somewhere in a slate grey morning, fog-deep in the quilts and pillows, they decided to be friends.  It was in the middle of her Vonnegut years, (so there was that) but mostly it was a hedge against the growing November darkness.  She secretly vowed to learn how to cook (but didn’t mean it) and he considered writing poetry (but didn’t do it.)  Mostly, it was buttoned-up coats and kicking leaves, and once, they got lost in their own town when they went walking without watching.  Sometimes, they dreamed of dusty old bookshops full of dusty old books with finger-worn pages and faded covers, and they wondered how romantic that would be.  But she had a library card, and it was three stops on the bus, so they spent their Saturdays curled in the bedroom, reading books they didn’t have to search for.  There was an old-fashioned restaurant, though, with bow-tied waiters and empty tables, that turned the lights on in the late afternoon.  It was on the way home, so they would stop there and have hot soup or old world meat pies.  Sometimes, they would bring their own candles and would order one dessert with two forks and drank wine — so they could explain things to each other.  And that was romantic enough for them.  Along the way, he taught her French (because that’s what he did) and she taught him numbers (because that’s what she loved.)  After a while, they decided they liked walking in the rain and, forever after, looked forward to cloudy days.  Once she went home for her brother’s wedding, and the sun shone large and cold every day, and he missed her and slept on her side of the bed.  She brought him back a piece of the cake with a squashed red rose on it.  She said she was sorry for squashing the rose, so he ate it to be polite.  One Sunday, they decided to go to church (just in case) and one night, for no reason they could remember, they ended up listening to French jazz in a damp basement club.  Occasionally, they would have other adventures as well, but they both knew they mostly preferred buttoned-up coats and walking in the rain – so that’s what they mostly did.  Even after she got over Kurt Vonnegut and got a job teaching mathematics; even after they moved to a bigger apartment; even after they were married and had children and bought a car and had to cut the grass and had regular vacations; even after the years scattered behind them like autumn leaves in the November breeze.  Even after all that, the thing they loved the most was buttoned-up coats and walking in the rain — because one slate grey morning, fog-deep in the quilts and pillows, they decided to be friends.