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.
It’s been a long time between posts, Pamela, but this one was worth the wait. Spring is just like this, the moments that hit you and come near to overwhelming with the vulnerability of new starts. I liked sitting on your back step with you watching and feeling it all unfurl. I liked too the chance to eavesdrop on your thoughts and memories. As I finished reading a few of my own memories found me. When I stop typing this note I will be turning on the light and focusing on the way the air of an April night feels when it washes through my window and over my skin.
Betsy, this is such a generous comment. Thank you. I love the idea of you sitting in your writing space and enjoying that gorgeous San Diego light. I wish you were here to enjoy my back stoop. xoxo
That last sentence. Wow. This piece transports the reader so that we are on your back step with you. What a gift you have, Pamela. Your writing tugs on the heartstrings of your reader. Grateful that you are willing to share glimpses into your life.
I wish we were all together on my back step. Thank you Colleen, for these kind, kind words.
“And I am disappointed in myself…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” Oh, Cousin….you have just, in a matter of 2 sentences, caused my own disappointment in myself, for I have not done these things either, and I have no excuses as my family is not separated by lands and oceans. I would argue that you have more patience than humanly allowed and probably more kindness in your pinky than I am able to carry on my shoulders. Do not be disappointed….
Jer – maybe it’s genetic? We can just blame the Heaveys??
By the way …. I didn’t do these things when Scott was around either. I don’t want to cause you any disappointment for you are a real live superhero! Honestly, Oliver still talks about Dominic and the fire station.
Hugs to your beautiful family. xoxo
“we have to let all the birdsong in if we are going to hear any of it” YES, oh, wow, yes. I love this. So beautiful. There are so many things we can focus on that disappoint us. But instead let’s turn our palms up and focus on the beauty. Right? At least try … xoxox
Yes. Let’s focus on the beauty! xoxo
This is so beautiful, most particularly the grace you show yourself at the end of the day, the not doing, the should have beens. Spring really does have a wonderful way of suggesting this is the better mindset, doesn’t it? Really lovely words.
Yes, isn’t spring benevolent? Thank goodness or else winter would do me in. Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read. We all need to give ourselves more grace I think. It sure is nice to let ourselves off the hook. I am planning on doing it more often!
Such a beautiful mediation on “hearts and spines”. We need both, I think. I love this: “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.” I didn’t do a lot of the things on my winter list either, but I am happy to see the daffodils poking up to remind me that today is here.
Thank you Lisa. I agree we need both. Enjoy the daffodils – you have the whole spring to come at you in full force! By the way, I have a feeling a hearts and spines short story might be in the works? Can’t wait to read!
So beautiful as always. Whenever I read your writing I start out thinking that I want to down a quote and a quote there. I think I might have to print out this whole thing. Each turn of phrase is more lovely than the one before it. I love the image of your palms turned up. I never sit like that and I wonder what perspective that small change would give me…
Thank you Stacey! I was in the library the other day with my kids and I always think of you when I am there.
I don’t know why I turned up my palms. I think I might have put lotion on them and had to dry them? It was kind of random but definitely had an impact. xoxo
Pamela, this makes me miss you! It left my heart so full, and I felt myself breathing more deeply even as I read it. It reminds me of the first time I talked to you by phone after reading your first sample of writing when you were asking to be in my writing group. I just remember having a hard time telling you how simply amazing I felt your writing to be. And it STILL IS. Thanks for this – the beauty of the writing is that it captures consciousness itself so well – the fleeting nature of it, and of all things.
Jeanne, I have missed you! Betsy and I were emailing a while ago about how great our group was with Melanie and the gang. Let’s catch up over email. I would love to hear about your writing and what you are doing. Honestly, your comment overwhelmed me with its gifts. Thank you for always being such a wonderful coach and friend. Your words mean so much because your writing is so good!!!
PS Remember when you came over for enchiladas in San Diego? I loved that. I don’t think I have made them since!
You are amazing. I was just missing you – and there you are, hands upturned to night falling on the day, medicine and mantra, cigarettes and incense, heart meeting spines. You, always, right there in the moment, thinking you don’t have what it takes and yet braver than any other as you turn your hands, and your face, right into to the night, right into the light, right into life, so present to it all. Immense love to you and “your boys.”
Oh I miss you too. And thank you for these words. You made me cry, per usual!!!! I have loved your messages from India and love even more that you are all over the world spreading your message of love. Thank you for being my teacher. xoxo
Once again, you amaze me. Loved every word. The disappointment I’ve been feeling by not being where/who I want to be, overwhelmed by this winter turned to summer, the brilliance of new life, because surely it was never going to come. Makes me feel not so alone, and long for a sit on your stoop. And Henry, it’s not just charm, it’s truth. No other class is as fulfilling, as church, as at home and peace as yours. Think I’ll print out your pieces and make myself a “Meditations with Pamela” book to help me through this life.
You are so good to me Jill! I am so, so happy spring has come to Boston. Phew. I too was worried you would float away on a glacier. I wish you could come and sit on my back step with me – or at least in my kitchen like in the old days … Thank you for your generous comments. I loved practicing teaching and practicing yoga with you.
Have you read http://www.adesignsovast.com? Lindsey is in Cambridge and I think you will find a kindred Boston soul.
Pam, You forget: You HAVE run a marathon. Your own life has been a marathon this year, and you showed up and kept going. And you wrote about it, some of the most beautiful, wrenching, wholehearted writing one could find anywhere. I love the way you acknowledge here how hard spring can be, and how inept our poor human souls are at accommodating both the violence and the beauty of this messy, complicated life. You always get me where I live. Especially this time.
You are another one who made me cry. Thank you for these words. I am glad we can meet, someplace between North and South. I think of you at every comma 🙂
Spring comes early in LA and it seems like countless weeks ago I marveled at the dogwoods; and I arrive late at your lovely post, appreciating your offering and that the new moon will be the same for us this weekend.
Um, wow. Haven’t seen you in a while and then you lay this on us. Your spring observations are on another level, doll. It’s such a confusing time of year as we shed our layers and turn our faces toward the sun. But, it feels so good to be open once we surrender to it.
“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” “Autumn and winter are so comfortable, all clove and wool, mitten and fireplace.” …I’ve never quite felt settled during spring–a season neither here nor there, an in-between time…and your gorgeous words give me new insight into why. yes, the steady, clear, enveloping comfort of autumn and winter, whereas in spring, all is in flux, emerging, shedding, reinventing…tumultuous change…wishing you warm nights & palms turned skyward & only the good this season has to offer…xo
hi pamela, i just was thinking of you and hadn’t seen any of your posts lately, and realized when i got here that it has been a while. hope you are doing well and if you are writing in any other venues, do let me know! i always appreciate your take on things. 🙂 also, happy new year!