This post may be what we used to call in educational jargon, a “bird walk,” which occurs when your lesson plan sort of meanders all over the place. But it’s finally spring, and meandering is not only allowed but encouraged.
I’m sitting at the dog groomer’s waiting for Vinnie and Stella to get their spring haircuts. A stone’s throw from a local ski resort, it’s beautiful here. Quiet and peaceful unless the herd of West Highland White terriers and Border Collies come charging into the fenced enclosure. Thanks to extraordinary vet care, Vinnie is still very much with us, happily chasing this year’s crop of squirrels and chipmunks. His auto-immune-destroyed-liver is miraculously functioning well, and he just turned 11, a birthday that we honestly didn’t expect him to see. Despite frequent clean-ups, creative meal preparation and stuffing a lot of pills down his throat, we treasure every day we still have him.
Last week, we experienced spring at the beach. The osprey couple is back on their nest in the creek behind the house. The last two summers, there have been no fledglings, so we’re hoping for better luck this year. In town, the hotels and restaurants are waking from their winter hiatus, and there’s that pre-season sense of anticipation, of “it’s going to be better than ever this year,” the way teachers and students feels in those first few days of school.
Spring concerts loom. One of our Susquehanna Chorale pieces, “Only in Sleep” is a gorgeous setting of a Sara Teasdale poem about remembering our childhood friends now “only in sleep.” The piece takes me right back to the street where I grew up, and I literally see my childhood friends playing hopscotch and jump rope on warm summer evenings in the 1960’s. The first time I sang this was one of those rare occasions when the emotional impact of a piece struck me before I even thought about what I was supposed to be singing. So often, those of us who create art get so caught up in the mechanics—the right notes or brush strokes or sentence structure, that we forget the whole point–that we’re creating beauty and a better world. Not that we shouldn’t strive for excellence, but sometimes it’s ok to let our guard down a little and allow the magic of raw emotion to take over.
Recently I’ve been working on a piece about a dear friend who passed away some years ago from colon cancer at the tender age of 40. Writing about this funny and irreverent and yet deeply spiritual woman has brought her alive once again for me. I can still hear her voice when I write her dialogue and I often keep this picture beside the computer, so I can see her smile when I’m working. Like “Only in Sleep,” telling her story has kindled unexpected emotion amid the struggle to get all the right words in the right places.
As I come down the home stretch toward another birthday, I am grateful that spring has finally emerged, and I can stop wearing socks. That Vinnie is still here with us. That the osprey are back and the hummingbird feeders are filled and ready. That it will soon be time for mint tea (and mint juleps.) Grateful for the opportunity to sing “Only In Sleep” and write about the precious time spent with a friend who left us way too soon.
I’m grateful that nature reminds us each spring to get rid of the dead leaves, to push out the flowers and new shoots and turn our faces to the warming sun. Thanks be to God that we get opportunities for fresh starts, to open the windows to refreshing breezes of hope and optimism after long periods of winter cold and darkness.
Now I’m going to pour a glass of iced tea, sit on the patio and wait for the hummingbirds to arrive.