April 15, 2015 § 26 Comments
“Unlatch the door to the canary’s cage, indeed, rip the little door from its jamb.” – Billy Collins
The evening is soft now. Dinner is over and I have come out to the back step to watch the bay and witness the arrival of spring. Mid-April is decidedly confident, like a starlet with an abundance of dogwood and cherry blossoms, and oh, those azaleas and the way the wisteria is already snaking through the trees. It would be so easy to stay right here and watch the day end. I don’t want to put anyone to bed or sweep the crumbs from the floor or wash the pan. Then the mocking bird flies out of last year’s tomato plants, its striped wings as sharp as its message is clear. I should go back inside. I should finish the chores. But inside, I hear the boys laughing, not bickering yet, so I sit a bit longer with my palms turned up, feeling spring in my hands until the cry of a jay makes me wince. He is so loud and insistent he competes with the artillery on the other side of the water, and I try to remember we have to let all the birdsong in if we are going to hear any of it.
This morning I walked with a friend, and we passed a group of Marines practicing some kind of martial arts, one kneeling behind the other within a border of sand bags, an elbow in camouflage hugging a neck. They were gentle in their demonstration of this fierce art, and I felt the effect this particular way they train has on my heart. They are careful even as they are practicing the quick skill of killing.
Somehow, overnight, a dogwood tree has turned white in my neighbor’s back yard, right in front of the water, the bay that is now calm and waveless, the whitecaps somehow turning into blossoms in front of my eyes. And this is why spring is so painful to me: all this unfurling and opening. All this softness and ease. Here, the sun says, fooling you. Just sit with me and I’ll be gentle and easy on your skin.
The other day I was sitting outside of the elementary school, waiting for Oliver to come out and wave his lunch box at me. He hates the bus and he says it’s too loud for him to read his book on the way home. We are so alike we don’t always get along, but this I can understand. As I sat on the concrete waiting, I saw a Marine who came to the yoga classes I used to teach and we waved to each other, but in that awkward way. As Henry got closer, he questioned me about my shoulder.
“Are you doing yoga again ma’am?” Henry asked and I told him I’m getting back into it and what about him? Another Marine passed with his two daughters, both of the girls in hot pink, which would make you blink: that contrast between a shaved head and a princess gown, the unlikeliness of softness against the scratch of this world.
Suddenly I miss teaching so much it hurts the way all of this unfolding hurts. The way unfurling yourself to the sun feels, the way your skin peeled off after that bike ride you took on the 101 twenty years ago and the way he put his palm on the back of your burned shoulder blade, right at the place where your heart meets your spine. “Can I help?” you asked then as you stood in his kitchen, watching him spin avocados into guacamole. He smiled at you. “Just charm me,” he had said, while that smile crept in like a criminal.
I told Henry to check out the free classes on YouTube. “Search for ‘Power Yoga’,” I told him. “You’ll find good stuff there.”
“Aw,” he said, “There’s no one like you.” But I know he is charming me because he keeps on walking, his head down and a smile sneaking into his cheeks. Heart and backbone, each holding each other up even as they are completely incompatible. Spring is so misguided, thinking it’s safe to come out, believing it’s acceptable to live for only a moment, that the month of April could ever be enough. I wonder if there is a difference between the Marines with elbows in choke holds and the ones in the yoga classes I used to teach, their shoulders and spines beginning to soften into a twist. And I think there is no difference in gentleness, no matter what pose, the way they all seem to circle around when it’s over and light cigarettes as if they were incense.
Autumn and winter are so comfortable, all clove and wool, mitten and fireplace. I am not sure I can handle this though: the smell of cooked meat wafting through the screen door, which isn’t who I thought I would be. I thought I would be sprouts and hummus, veggie burgers and broccoli, but since Scott has gone we have tacos on Monday nights, after a free yoga class for the teachers while the boys build Legos in the back of the classroom. All these opposites colliding like the osprey who flew overhead last night, clutching the fish in its talons. “You can’t be vegetarian when your husband is deployed,” my neighbor told me while the sun beat down last June. “It’s just too tiring.” And I am disappointed in myself that this has turned out to be correct. I am disappointed I am not as gentle as I wanted to be this year, that I didn’t train the dog to heel, or run a marathon or build more things out of Legos. I am disappointed I am not as patient, or even as kind as I thought I was. But this I can do: I can sit on the back step and turn my palms up to the spring night, revealing a slender frond of green, reluctantly raising its head above the earth.
Inside, I can hear the boys playing still, giggling in a sweet, “let’s prolong bedtime” sort of way. But my palms are still turned up even as the night is falling down over the day. Evening being the way spring is: stuck between the seasons, wedged between cigarettes and incense, medicine and mantra, sin and the ways we are saved.