I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 29, 2012

When lilacs last bloomed

I went looking through my posts from last year, thinking I had written something about the lilacs in bloom. Nothing came up. That poem from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass keeps coming up to me these days, as I walk past the blooms bursting forth at the end of the driveway.
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
This is just the first part of Whitman's long poem, which I just reread, to remind myself why it moved me so much when I was a young woman who had never personally known the loss of any loved ones. In the poem he breaks a sprig with the flower on it and as a funeral procession passes by, he lays the lilac on the coffin. As he listens to a singing bird, he writes the poem (to my mind at least) as his elegy to his loved one who is gone from the earth, as well as to the movement of life and death that carries us all within it.

Not only the lilacs, but the flowers are everywhere in bloom, blossoming fruit trees, bursting tulips and unidentified fragrances waft through the air these days. It's April, almost May, and I wonder about the melancholy that I keep feeling in the morning when I wake. It also seems to be present in a number of the authors of the blogs I read regularly. Does spring do that to everyone? Or is it just me and a few others? Whitman speaks very eloquently of his sense of mourning that is brought on by the ever-returning spring. Perhaps that's what is causing this feeling: the bursting forth of the riot of life that happens after the sleeping winter.

Two weeks ago when I forgot to write this Sunday post, I was bursting with excitement about going to the Drop Zone in Snohomish to play with my friends. Eventually that morning I got my post written, because I am driven to follow my own self-imposed rules of weekly activity, and every Sunday morning I sit in bed with my laptop while my partner sleeps, and I write a post that usually begins to flow out of my thoughts, sometimes easily and other times, like this morning, haltingly as I find my way into my creative muse.

Two weeks ago I made two skydives and had a wonderful day, driving home in the sunshine, well spent afterwards, making my way north the 75 miles that separates Snohomish from Bellingham. Today I am also hoping to get down there, but the weather is nowhere near as promising, with light rain falling at the moment and overcast skies down south. I may or may not end up going today, but two weeks ago when I drove away from my friends in the early afternoon, I felt the beginning of the season and the certainty that we would spend many days this summer playing together in what might be my last skydiving season. It's either this summer or next, I can feel it coming, and it also makes me mourn for that which is changing and falling away.

Even though there is nothing to keep me from continuing to skydive until I end up getting injured, it's not the way I want to end my career. People get more fragile as they age, and I can feel the aches and pains of life in my body that warn me not to overextend myself. Although I can still walk ten miles with the Trailblazers every week, it's not without moaning and groaning afterwards. I'm just grateful that everything still functions as well as it does, but I also know that pushing myself too far is counterproductive. Nobody has to remind me on Friday mornings (we hike on Thursdays) that I am almost seventy. I feel every minute of it.

But as the days go by, each day I feel less stiff and sore. Yesterday I got an hour-long massage, which I schedule every third Friday. I would get one every other week if I could afford it, but as it is, I look forward to the ministrations of dear Sarah as she helps my muscles to relax. It's also very nice to feel the integration of my body after a good massage. I began to get a regular massage after the skydiving accident I suffered in 2000. Now I cannot imagine going for too long without one. It's a kind of healing touch that feels essential to my overall health.

If I don't get to go skydiving today, I think I'll go for a nice walk and take along my camera to capture all the beauty around me today. This is the fourth spring I've experienced here since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, and there's really nothing like it. The cherry tree in the front yard is in full bloom, which only lasts one short week before the white blossoms fall and the green leaves take over. I am very content with my life, but stopping to remember those I love who are gone is never far from me during this beautiful spring season. Remembering them, loving the birdsong, the heady scents in the air, and the transitory nature of it all, it's all of a piece.


Teresa Evangeline said...

A nice post and I just read your post from last Sunday that I missed somehow. Together, they give me food for thought, all very organic, of course. :)

Rubye Jack said...

It takes a wise woman to listen to her body, and as much as I know you love sky diving it is good you don't have that ego that makes you think you can do it forever.

I've actually been feeling rather bright all spring and wake up refreshed each day. Of course that may be from having been so depressed all winter.

I hope you day is good however you end up spending it DJan.

Retired English Teacher said...

Since my daughter's death just two May's ago, and since her birthday is in April, I to get strong feelings of melancholy and sadness in the spring. Spring, the season I most once celebrate, now brings a heaviness of heart I never knew before. I also find comfort and inspiration in those blooming trees and plants that first signal spring. I don't get ecstatic over spring flowers as I once did. They are heavy reminders.

Still, spring also brings some lightness of spirit to me because I can again go out into the yard and work through my grief and loss by cultivating the earth. I can create beauty and peace. That helps tremendously.

Anonymous said...

Well written, DJan. I couldn't have said it better -- though I have never experienced the loss of two children nor the aches and pain of exercise.

Gigi said...

Usually spring revitalizes me....unless it's gloomy weather then all bets are off, since gloomy weather and I do not get along at all.

Arkansas Patti said...

An interesting and as usual well written post and I could relate.
Just as retirees often down size their homes, we also have to scale back our activities. Sadly, it is the natural order.
However,scale back I think is a lot better than eliminating which I have almost done with kayaking. That I really miss.
The main thing that bothers me about Spring is also what gives me joy,gardening. While I used to love long hours in the dirt, the pain price I pay these days takes the edge off the pleasure.

Jackie said...

As you go on your walks and take your camera with you, Jan, please know that your walks are our gain. I love your photographs and your blogs.
I pray that the sadness that you feel in the morning is quickly overcome with joy. Sweet memories of those loved ones who have gone from you are ever-present with you; I can tell that from reading your words. Thoughts of those you love should always be with you. Those are precious memories....
Feel the hugs from me to you, my friend.

Rita said...

Spring is a time of change, activity, and growth. Summer heat and humidity wears on me terribly, though. Fall fills me with excitement for some reason and always has. I get nostalgic and maybe a little melancholic over saying goodbye to the past year and hello to the new one. I guess I never thought about it before, but I don't think any of the seasons make me feel sad. Of course, you know how I love variety--LOL!

I hope you wake up smiling, lady. Even on the rainy days. I love sharing your walks and I think you capture some great close-up shots lately, too. *hugs*

Sandi said...

It's funny, now that you mention it, about the melancholy feelings in spring. I've loved the promise of warm sun and heady scents of flowers, but,I too have felt sadness, and I'm thinking of my son, missing him.
It could be simply because I have so many mementos of him that are garden related. I. Have a large flower pot on the deck that he gave me on my last Mother's day, that I always plant with flowers.
Thanks for your post. I think it helped ease those memories and look forward to the fresh beauty of spring.

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Are we causing one another some sort of woe through the digital world?
I checked my las t April and it started with earaches but ended with the excitement of flying to Winnipeg just hubby and me, Rare!
I think aging has a lot to do with moods especially during the shift of the trade winds though I cannot figure out why.
Here's hoping the sun will soon have us smiling:)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, . . . I, too, remember reading Whitman's elegy about the death of Abraham Lincoln when I was in college. It brought home to me the sadness that seemed to line the face of Lincoln in the photographs I saw of him.

For five springs he faced the horrors of war and had to make decisions that left men dead on the battlefield as he tried to preserve the Union.

And so that trinity--of lilac blooming and western star drooping and a great man dying--lodged within me as within you.

You write here in this post your own elegy from the mixed grief of growing older when the body is no longer able to do those things that once seems so simple and rewarding. And yet I see in your posting that you have come to a wisdom that is rich in years.


The Retired One said...

I am still amazed on how much you CAN do, DJan! I am crazy sore with every activity I do. But like you, I refuse to "give it up" yet....my passion of photography keeps me going and my hubby comes with me to help me climb over logs and get up from crouching low to take macro pictures. LOL I too get melancholy over spring days, warm summer nights and gorgeous sweet autumn days....I think it is more and more as I age.

Star said...

Our lilacs are not quite blooming here in England D-Jan. I watch every morning but April was a very rainy month so they've been holding back. I love when the flowers open and their beautiful scent fills the air.
I know how you feel about the passage of time. We just have to accept it I suppose and 'run' with it (chuckles). Actually it's more like a sedate walk these days, on my behalf anyway.
You're doing just fine, but don't push your luck.

Linda Myers said...

I love the longer days this time of year, and the blooming, but I feel a little melancholy that the weather is not yet reliable enough to be outside in the long light evenings. Like we're almost at the longest day of the year and we're missing out!

On my road trip in April, most days were sunny, but the days are shorter because we were further south.