The days have been getting longer. Have you felt it? The sun squeaks above the horizon a little earlier each morning. The house is not pitch black at 7:00 am, it’s starting to flush with grey light, slowly, but steadily. The quality of the light is changing. It’s warmer, richer, I almost want to say meatier. The sun feels more confident when it shows itself through the clouds (in like a lion, out like a lamb). The end of the day lingers longer and I can no longer go by the setting of the sun to know when I should eat, because the sun sets later, and later, and later.
I like to imagine the seasons like a dance in a Jane Austen novel. I realise this idea is not terribly original, but it’s so very apt. They march formally along and periodically twirl and change partners and it is in that twirling eddy that you see a world ripe with possibility. Winter is nodding to spring today. I like to think that Winter is wearing a floofy white gown and trailing a long handkerchief, her skirts rustling on the floor with an icy, sharp sort of noise. Spring is in a tea dress, ribbons in her hair. You would hear the bells on her feet, but the musicians are too loud. Spring minces around daintily, waiting for Winter to give it up and stalk off the dance floor, trailing powder behind her.
This was a harsh winter, in more ways than one. In the garden it was wet, and often icy; we had multiple episodes of hail and heavy frosts, but somehow the plants managed to weather it all (so to speak) and come out on the other side. The buckeye put out buds and they burst into leaves, the daffodils and narcissus gallantly struggled until they popped open and filled the air with their various scents. When I walk out on the porch I can smell the dark, wet earth, the flowers in bloom, the trees. Soon, inhaling outdoors will be a one way ticket to an allergy attack.
It was a rough winter in my personal life, as well. At the turn of the fall equinox it felt like everything was crashing down around me and in a way, I guess it was. When I planted bulbs in November, I did it not knowing if I would see them come up in the spring. When I paid the heating bill in December, I wondered who would use the rest of my newly filled propane tank. When I got ready to travel in January, I thought about what would happen if the plane crashed and I didn’t have to come back.
It’s been almost six months since Shadow died and I still think about him every day. The experience of loss is different for everyone, but I find it alienating and offensive that, for the most part, people seem to think that I should be ‘over it,’ that I should have forgotten and moved on, as though someone who lives with you for 13 years can just disappear one day like he never was. I dream about him sometimes. I remember how when we lived in Caspar, he used to stalk the cowfield for mice and in the spring, he was almost invisible amongst all the daffodils, and he would come home covered in tiny specks of pollen and smelling like narcissus.
To lose an animal companion is different from losing a human one. With humans, people give you more of a grace period. More leeway. Oh, they still wish you would take your disgusting, uncomfortable grief somewhere where they didn’t have to look at it, but there is still a common and essential humanity there. There is still a recognition that something happened and it was a great shift for you. With animals, even those thin threads of support are gone. There is almost no one there for you and you are reminded at every turn that you shouldn’t be so sentimental, ‘it’ was ‘just an animal,’ what’s the big deal. People casually ask callous, hateful questions and they think you won’t care.
That is only one of so many things that happened this fall/winter, but it is the one that weighs most heavily on me. It is the one I wake up to in the morning and go to sleep to at night. The other day, I opened up a jar of lentils and found a few tiny grey hairs and I sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and I thought ‘how did I get here?’ and also ‘has it really been that long since I made lentils?’
When you fight the monster, there is no winning, but there is better. Now. I feel better. Now. I feel like I’ve been buried underground and I clawed my way to the surface and most of the world is still here, more or less where I remembered it. I feel lighter. I feel stronger. I feel keener. I feel like I cleared a lot of dead wood away during the winter and I narrowed my focus on those long, dark nights. I let go of things that I needed to let go of. I found some things I needed to find.
I am not gamboling about the fields like a lamb, but I feel that sense of hope you are supposed to feel in spring. I made it through another winter, through the tunnel and out the other side. I found a reason to leave the tunnel instead of lying down in the middle and letting myself sink slowly deeper and deeper until the moss covered me and no one noticed I was there. I see the trees flushing with new growth and I feel like I’m flushing along with them.
I don’t know where the rest of this year will lead, but I have good feelings about it.