The eastern sky is just beginning to show a pinkish cast, and as I watch the changing colors I wonder if this is how it looked, how it felt, at the dawn of creation. The colors in the sky and the early morning coolness announce what I had almost forgotten: Spring is on its way.
For some reason, spring always takes me by surprise — and for many of us it becomes a marker of sorts, bringing to mind the people and places, the things that shape our very existence. And what we often forget is that spring is a gift, for when it does arrive we come face to face with an extraordinary message: Our lives can begin anew.
Remember the magic slates of childhood? You could write on them, then lift the page to make the writing disappear. For us, it's not so easy. Like it or not, our past goes with us, even the parts we'd like to erase — especially the parts we'd like to erase. And though they won't simply disappear, we don't have to embrace them. The choice, and the gift, is ours.
Spring brings with it remembrance, a time to look back, to note lessons we have learned. But remembrance also prods us to look ahead, to welcome the future with caution — and to ignore the "big ticket" happenings. For these will rarely influence our lives to any great degree; what stays in our mind are the small, homey things — the day-in, day-out choices — things that we do almost by rote, that will in time become habits. That will eventually shape who and what we become.
I think back to a mellow time of life, to a spring of long ago, a time of day that sits halfway between fading night and morning's light, and in my mind's eye the looming Carolina mountains cast sleepy shadows on my grandmother's front porch. I watch as, methodically, she braids her long gray hair, then twists it around her head into a coronet — an early morning ritual. The porch swing, where she sits, rocks gently back and forth. The tableau, I am certain, will stay in my mind forever.
What I remember, what still resonates, is a song that shaped our generation:
"Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow,
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow . . ."
Given a moment, I can see — so clearly! — three generations of women, dreamers all. My mother, my grandmother, myself. For us, as for others, spring carried the message of Easter, a message of rebirth through God's son, Jesus. And the song that I remember, that shaped generations of dreamers, still plays in my mind to this day:
"Deep in December it's nice to remember
Although you know the snow will follow . . .
Deep in December it's nice to remember
The fire of September that made us mellow . . ."
Spring's gift — that mellow time of life when memories were young and age a fleeting vision — the gift always brings renewal, along with a question we all ask, and, for generations past, I ask it again today:
Where have the years gone?
The answer, for each of us, lies within, nevertheless there is one certainty:
Although time passes quickly, our memories of September's fire remain. Perhaps we hope, somehow, to outwit December's snows.
Our generations have traveled far, bringing our dreams along, trying to keep pace with our lives, our loves, and the babies we might someday nurture. But eventually the time comes to head for home, to another spring, to another of its extraordinary gifts.
Now, after so long a journey, we draw on memories to sustain us. Perhaps, as the Psalmist, we will learn to number our days, carrying few possessions but many dreams, our cups overflowing with hope. Such is the nature of springtime's gift.
Tampa Bay area resident Faith Barnebey spends her summers in Blowing Rock, N.C.