04 May 2002

Margaret, are you grieving
over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
  - G.M. Hopkins, 
    Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

Everything's blossoming at once, it seems. As I was driving along the highway yesterday, I noticed something unusual. The trees in their half-budded states seemed caught between the death of winter and the promise of summer. If I squinted, just a little, the landscape suddenly appeared to me exactly the way it did in October, when the season changed. I saw red, green, yellow, brown, and the flaming mixed orange that takes my breath away amid the silvery and greyish-green branches. A few trees, early bloomers like the apples, dogwoods, and cherries, wore pink, white, and purple finery in thick clumps along their limbs. There were still plenty of trees that didn't seem to quite have the message from nature that it won't snow on us now, so it's time to get on with the greening, but they were fewer than those whose leaves were beginning to unfurl and open to the sun's warmth.

I've lived my whole life in places where the weather moved in definable, recognizable transitions from season to season, and the plants responded according to their life stages. Soft, fresh, tender shoots and buds in the spring. Heady, vibrant fronds full of greenery in the summer. Brilliant, blazing, brittle husks falling to the waiting earth in autumn. And the frosty whites and greys of winter over everything. I never realized the spring colors were so close to the autumn ones. This has meaning for me because as I move toward autumn in my own life, it occurs to me that I am experiencing many things the way I did when I was much younger and fresher myself.

The only problem is, I have been around a while, and the nostalgia for the freshness is frankly overwhelmed by my cynical awareness of the underlying workings of what I find at times wonderful.

I wish I'd never heard of clorophyll, or global warming, or any of the other things that are making nature do the seemingly impossible things it does on these spring mornings as I drive to work. If only there was a way to make my mind "squint" just a little bit, the way I can soften focus with my eyes.

I've been so busy going about my business, I've not noticed how spring and autumn frame our years, just like an embrace.

Excuse me. I need to go hug a tree.


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