Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Fragments

Spring arrives like a new or long forgotten planet in Vermont. I once had a teacher who said that when you reach a certain age spring becomes invaluable to you. I suppose he meant it offers the rejuvenation, renewal, exuberance that only the young—with all their intensity and longing, insecurity and possibility—can maintain as a part of their identity and being. Oh, how you groan at me for saying this! After all, I am a mere 31. But life does change after thirty. The confusion, the fear, the insanity, the wild feverish desires, the big expectations and big plans, they simply chill out post-thirty. In fact, scientists have reported a new stage of life termed by Jeffery Jensen Arnett, “emerging adulthood,” which marks the 20-somethings as a phase of life all their own.

Kirk Age 11: Anarchist, Punk, Musician

I’m inclined to mark my life by decades. I have a sense of thirty being the decade of both career and family but maybe thirty will be career and forty will be family. If I were still a 20-something I’d be too uncertain to make any such claim—who knows if I’ll have a career or a family!

I’m inclined also to tell you that all these stages of life overlap and intertwine and stunt themselves and go through growth spurts. But, back to spring. I keep trying to write about a single line by the poet Ricardo Reis, the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa who created multiple identities for himself as a poet. Really you must look at Philip Graham’s blog for more info, which is where I came across this line.

“Countless lives inhabit us.” (Pessoa took this literally)

Newly married, Hannah and Paul, 29 and 41:
lawyer, runner, gardener/ baker and builder

The divisions within myself, the parts of me that co-exist in a sort of conflict within me but also peacefully, unconcerned with wanting both hermit hood and a deep rooted community with constant social obligations and actions or with wanting a child and not wanting a child—a desperate desire mixed with a sometimes immobilizing fear—or wanting financial stability and wanting free time enough for the wasting so that I might be a wondering artist of sorts, all force themselves upon me in the moment of spring.

Sally 60-something (with her newborn grandaughter Claribel):
writer, mother, grandma

I don’t want to be here I want to be in a field with sheep, beside a rushing stream, in the forest as it blooms neon green. Spring gives us the most intense feelings of renewal in its literal new life. Again, I feel myself failing to get at Pessoa’s line, actually Reis’s. The old winter elf would write: I live multiple lives at once, I am both the six year old crossing the spring field, her shoes soaked through with dew, and the eighty-year old woman I hope to become, her curled hands reaching into the wet soil of spring to plant seed. I am a teenager driving down a muddy dirt road, getting stuck there, laughing, running away, careless and irresponsible; I am a twenty-something so fraught with depression and anxiety I can’t see straight. I am the woman who will watch cancer destroy another family member or hold the tiny newborn of a sister.

But, spring-me just isn’t feeling that shit. Spring-me is full of longing, she wants to run hard and fast away from everything she’s worked and fought for, everything she’s established. She wants freedom from responsibility even while she wants to take on new responsibility.

Jen 30-something: Activist, Artist, Teacher

Sometimes I wonder if wanting to escape is some sort of symptom. I tell my husband that I refuse to work forty-hour work weeks to which he usually rolls his eyes and once, after he’d had a single beer, he kissed me and said that was why he loved me, for my stubborn convictions. I realize that this feeling of wanting to escape is truly one from my college days. The first hint of warm weather in Minneapolis and I was jumping out of my skin. My roommates and I would find some park or riverbank or back porch and spend the afternoon and evening getting drunk, escaping the anxiety and pressure of looming deadlines and finals. My grades Spring Semester were always a little lower than Fall Semester. Back then I suffered from the most intense kind of winter depression so coming out of winter felt like leaving a cave to be stung with sunlight. Back then I ran out of the city as soon as I’d turned in my last term paper, took my last test, up north to the lakes, to the wilderness, to my family.

Roger age 80-something:
Retired pharmacist, business man, tree farmer; father, grandfather, husband

The residue persists from that era of life when everything was a wild spring river, rushing every which way. And about these multiple selves… well I think of course that all conflicting forces within us and around us are the course of true growth, true spring.

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