He zeroes in, past feet beating pavement
where discarded minutiae gather and disperse
and it all counts to him, marred or unscathed,
this matter he dissembles, puzzles into patterns
to designate order in the world’s gaping chaos.
She scans breadth of east, west, south, north,
and whole or broken it is received as cosmology,
a kaleidoscope of the universe turning before her
as lassos of time capture, scatter light so she
gleans evidence of Grace, its mercurial designs.
I’ve never thought the weather makes a big difference in my perception of life or my activities. Not unless it interrupts or shuts down basic amenities, which I’ve sure experienced as everyone has. But I am not a person who gets seriously blue thanks to the Northwest rain-saturated greyness. I didn’t hate winter when I was growing up with dazzling yet inconvenient snow. Summer is special here, perfect for outdoor life though high heat can be taxing on my patched heart. Autumn has long been perhaps my favorite season: not too cold or hot, prompting another cycle of life that soon unleashes the nourishing (if relentless) rains. Every season heralds the might and mystery of superior designs emergent on earth. Who I am is shaped by seasons, sure. I adapt to them as needed, I respect their place in the botanical, animal and mineral kingdoms, and my place in theirs. But emotions don’t routinely get high-jacked by them, either, and for that I am thankful.
Still, I am taking a another look at this as I admire altered landscapes and temperatures once more. There are subtler effects that insinuate themselves into my life. I realize, for one thing, that I tend to become more internal when chilled rain descends. From late October to April, though walking daily and busy as ever, my attention moves ever closer to realms of mind and spirit. The natural isolation that develops in winter (especially as I don’t hunker down in pubs with much of Portland) leads me to more pensive states. Quieter ones. The rain is a constant background sound track. There is comfort in those drops splattering away as I read, write, pray and meditate, do chores, enjoy hobbies, socialize with others.
I suspect I am less materialistic during rainy season, perhaps more spiritually inclined. Or in a different way. My senses are turned down a notch when indoors. Winter pulls me to activity within–home, mind, spirit. If there is a touch of melancholia it arises from a natural sense of poignancy, of the bittersweet, not deep sadness (except last year when grief dictated much and then rain was a tender companion). I write without noting change from foggy light to a total lack of it. Often my husband comes home and turns on lights so he can find his way in. My mind is working hard. It pesters me to unearth ideas and spin stories, turn up the action on pages. It nags me to commune with God in all. In winter this is accompanied by a natural desire to delve into solitude. It is resonant deep inside. I pay attention.There are less distractions as shadows shift about me morning ’til night.
I have a different awareness of my body. It feels bulkier, slower and may be. I strive to stay warm and drink lots of hot tea, bring a blanket to my computer chair, wear half-gloves at the keyboard. Appearance matters less as rain and winds drench and whip about everything. The uniform is jeans, boots, sweaters or hoodies, an ever-present fleece. Slippers inside. It’s a monotonous but a necessary uniform. I like to stay strong so walks are long but faster in damp half-darkness, cold threatening to infiltrate a hooded rain jacket. Hiking, unfortunately, has to wait until things dry out. I dream of the deep woods; I so long for this one thing. It can be written about, at least.
So if I am less material, more ruminative in winter, there must be differences in spring and summer.
I notice shifts in energy, a rising in my blood like growing things must. It’s the sudden revelation of golden light and longer days. The neon blue of sky that blinds me the first weeks I am out under it, sans rain gear. I feel lighter on my feet. My head empties of more severe thoughts. I look outward into a jeweled palette of colors taking over the city, my neighborhood and country. Each sign is noted with eyes that hunger. Dry spells begin to intercede. Afternoons remain brighter and extend into early evening. Voices of children shriek and guffaw. Basketballs thud and bounce on street-courts. Cyclists off to work shed water repellent body suits. Walkers clad in shorts, t-shirts and Birkenstocks say “hello” with a smile. At the park I am prepared for marathon runners in training; I can feel the air pressure shift as they whiz by. And the dogs let loose–they are mad with glee.
So, then, it’s finally springtime if I am to take the sighting of a velvety royal purple iris as proof perfect. The divine scent halted my walk for several heady seconds. Charming daffodils began making their entrance in February. Tulips have been waving their brilliant heads about since at least early March. I noted an errant red rose, but surely it decided to warn its citywide companions to hold off. That iris assures me of continued forward motion toward balmier days and nights. There are so many colors my eye darts from one to the other all day long. I am drunk on the beauty of it all, and understand perfectly what is meant by “spring fever.” I was so overcome today during my walk that I felt compelled to dance down the sidewalk a moment, imagining a rendezvous was in the offing. Everything else is having fun; I can, too. I emailed a picture of the iris to my husband, which made him happy at the office.
I felt giddy, a tad younger, high on sunshine and the magnetism of the present moment. My camera was full of shots that told the story of earth’s bounty. Holy unveilings.
Aglow from the power walk, at home I yanked off tennis shoes and socks. I peeked into my closet, seeking sandals worn on the Monterey trip. They’d been tucked away but were untucked again, just in case it remained short sleeve weather this week. Spring means warm clothing is exchanged for light-weight so breezes get in and sunlight gets to rest upon patches of skin. Everything breathes differently, even the earth, even me.
I rested some, opened a new fashion magazine. This is a clue about another difference between winter and spring for me. I start thinking more about outward matters, material trivialities like my winter dry and bland skin, about clothes. Wearing fewer but more colorful, pretty things. I’ve enjoyed fashion all my life in some form or another, if usually on sale and for practical use. There have been a few exotic or pricier flourishes that remain special.
But as I perused the pictures, I was dismayed for the first one hundred fifty pages. Slouchy young women weren’t demonstrating individuality as much as how well clothing could just hang off frail shoulders. The frocks were barely inhabited. The designs and colors seemed….deconstructed, even wimpy. There wasn’t any variety in body type or hair style. The photos seemed tediously similar for all their high prices. Page after page showed faces askew with contempt, boredom, even challenge as if they wanted to fight. No one smiled. Come on, it’s spring, come alive! Insouciance was the impression–heedlessness, a lack of care. I flipped pages quickly until finally, there was a woman with hand by closed eyes, wearing a drapey, fiery red dress with black block heels, lying on the crimson leather back seat of a fancy convertible. At least I could relate to that–I love red, it speaks brightly, and I adore interesting cars and I can use more sleep at times. (I’ll take the whole ensemble, the car, too.) And after that, I swear the models started to smile a little from the glossy pages. Now we might get somewhere cheery.
I don’t know why I was surprised. High fashion tends to run off a beaten track, or thinks it does. My own fashion style doesn’t match up, a failure within such a perspective. I like tried and true mostly. The random or reckless I leave to exploration of other mediums–and far riskier stylists. (I may be reading the “wrong” magazines, but I find choice intellectual bons bons, as well.) I like to root out fresh, daring creativity in everything. Designers clearly have artistic visions they translate into clothing, accessories and more. Still, today I wanted frivolity. At the least. Floral, perhaps, looser lines that move with me. Gemstone and petal hues. But made with an older woman in mind so our well-worn softness or minimalist sharpness coupled with the appeal of wiser–we hope–faces are well and happily enhanced. (I am thrilled to see women in forties, fifties and beyond in ad campaigns more.)
Though Ferragamo, Escada (oh, that turquoise-with-a-touch-of-coral frock!) and Armani offer superior fabrics and elegant lines, I would be s low to buy them if I could. Simple, classic clothing, multi-purpose and meant to last are preferred: I’m an outdoorsy person who likes to dress up a little. There is less use for fussier or accessorized clothing as I am no longer a professional, a counselor who works at an office. I am not meant to impress anyone now, thank goodness. I just want something comfortable with a lively dash–and now springy.
So here I have landed soundly in the midst of those most material desires. Thinking of new sandals and rose polish on my toes, a vivid printed sundress. Thinking even about straw hats and gold hoop earrings. (Obviously, missing that California seashore where we were two weeks ago with our daughter and son-in-law.) I am ready to loosen things up and relax more. I want to play a little more. The iris showed me that the rain may soon give it a rest and let the sunshine flow like manna. It’s that time again.
Ah, I come back around to heart and spirit. Each spring when I see the first iris, I immediately sense my mother’s presence. Mom died in 2001 at 92. The iris was her favorite flower, complicated, graceful and sweet, gentling to eye and soft to the touch. She always told me that tulips came out of the hard, cold earth for me, as my birthday is in spring. But along with stalwart tulips, there were such irises of lavender, deep purple, yellow and white at my childhood home. After the harsh snowy winters, we reveled in each signal of springtime. It was such a relief. It was renewal at its best and God’s handwork in full glory. Those flowers filled me up with magic and delight.
On Easter I wore light grey slacks with a blue wildly patterned top. I hesitated over shoes– silver or black flats? Then I remembered my mother’s navy blue heels, kept in a box, rarely brought down from the shelf. She wore high heels until she hit her late eighties; I gave them up long ago. For years we had shared our shoes because we could. She tended to have the better ones.
I turned them over in my hands. They were in good shape, still attractive in a vintage way. The heels were not very high; I could handle them.
The sun graced me with warmth as it slipped through curtains. I started to sing as I got ready. Outside the window were splendid growing things, their perfume sailing on the breeze. Liveliness abounded. Like my mother, who loved to dress up, spritz on scent and had good shoes. Who had a heart that never gave up on others no matter what and a soul that was plugged into the Divine. So I put on her blue shoes. They still fit perfectly. And instantly I stood taller. I walked carefully, nervous at first, but soon I had the hang of it again. I felt more… something. Good. Joyful and profoundly grateful for life, for being loved by God, for family and friends. Certainly for another springtime. I wore those blue high heels all day long.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson