After nearly six months of storms and blizzards, below freezing temperatures, bleak skies, and a record-breaking number of weekends spent “hunkered down,” I think it’s safe to say: we survived, and spring has arrived to greet us.
Here in New England, it was a winter that stretched long and snowy, a winter that tested and hurt and crept under our skin and filled the spaces between our ribs with an ice-white chill. It was a winter of quiet, of isolated hibernation. Never before have I heard so many people lament about a season or ache for the rapid passing of time.
I also have never before understood fully the concept of being a “snow bird,” but after two trips to Florida in the last few months, I can safely say I get the appeal of trading Massachusetts for Miami in the dark bleakness of February.
Yes, it was a winter that we abhorred, because it felt, at times, infinite.
And yet, it is now, slowly, slipping away. Soon, like many other things and people and events in life, it’ll be only a memory, a story of a season ago.
This past weekend, Grace and I went for a walk together. It was just around 5 o’clock, one of my favorite hours of the day: the sun is still bright, the work is winding down, the light is golden and the shadows long, and you have all the potential of the evening ahead. As we walked, I was talking to Grace about the seasons and about how we’re on the cusp of spring. Can she feel that low-lying, balmy breeze in the afternoon? Can she see those few eager buds bursting open on the trees? Does she know how many daffodils we’ll see abloom in nana and grandpa’s garden—too many to count! I called out, “Good-bye, winter!” and ruffled her curls.
Grace, as she always does, listened so attentively, so wonderfully curious, and then she wanted to know when winter ended. She asked, “Where did it go? Did you see it leave?”
And, as I always do, I paused, caught in a classic case of, “Huh. Yep, good question. Well. Okay, so the mostly correct response to this one is…”
I bumbled through how, yes, we’re seeing winter leave right now, because one season fades into another, gradually, over a matter of days and weeks, and the changes are small enough that we don’t always notice them until one day, we wake up, and the world is lush and green, and the sun is hot, and we’re stripped down to shorts and sandals and craving the ocean and ice cream.
“But, where is winter when it’s spring?” Grace pressed.
And that I honestly struggled to answer.
Where does anything go, when it’s run its course?
During this winter, with its unforgiving bite, its sharp and bruising elbows, I’ve both experienced and witnessed a handful of truly sad and truly joyful life-altering changes. The kind of monumental events that rattle every bone in your body and crack your heart into pieces, in happiness and in sorrow. Moments so big and surreal that even I, ever trying to capture the world in words, don’t know what to say or write.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months thinking about these life events. How do you rationalize the urgings that “life is short” with the reminders to “plan for your future?” How do you know when right now is more important than the someday you hope and prepare for ahead? How do you stay present—and, perhaps, more importantly—push forward when the past fires a relentless attack of nostalgic “remember when”s and “what if”s? What (and who), truly, matters most?
I’ve also thought a lot about endings, good-byes, the inevitable pain that comes with loving people. That’s the catch-22, right? Love is the greatest gift, and yet, love exposes us to the deepest pains. And yet, who would want to live a life without it?
There’s the argument that we are, all, ultimately alone in the end, we all lose each other, and so what’s the damn point? (Similarly to the seasons, you never quite know when the end is, really, the end—I remember in March talking to a friend about how you never know when the last snow storm is really the last one. Because, who knows, another 10 feet could fall next Tuesday.) But, I don’t buy this mindset.
Rather, I believe that our innate aloneness in the world is merely a footnote to the great novel of our lives, which reads rich and colorful and hilarious and heartbreaking and true, because of the courageous leaps, the craziness, the love that cements us, the clamor of experiences captured within its pages, and mostly, because of the characters, the ones we love and hold tight to, so tight, for all or as little time as we are given.
That’s the only answer I’ve come to lately, against the list of seemingly endless questions.
And so as Grace and I walked the hill toward home, I stopped and leaned down over her stroller and tapped her nose with my finger. She giggled and squirmed. I laid my cheek alongside hers, the sun pressing against my back with the reassurance of my father’s hand, the gentle guidance of my mother’s palm, and I whispered into her ear, “The seasons are like people, my little duck. You won’t always see all of them at once, because they each have their own special moment in time. And they might come and go more quickly or more slowly than you’d expect. But, they always exist in the world; they’re always here.”
Grace smiled and sighed, contented, and I pushed the stroller on, and I felt my heart would nearly burst, from gratitude and want and conviction that I am just where I need to be.
And the first truly beautiful twilight in what feels like forever settled around us, quietly, preciously, with the pink promise of spring.
A recent obsession on repeat: River Flows In You by Yiruma. Close your eyes, and enjoy.