The view from my office window is bookended by two trees.
On one side is my beloved red oak. The tree that a few winters ago was bent double by ice and now stands thirty feet tall, straight and strong. Its fall fire red leaves have faded to the apricot of age-faded red hair and thinned in the same way. A close examination of branches would reveal the new life waiting to burst forth, but from this vantage it still looks very much a winter tree.
On the other side is a big leaf maple that we transplanted from the edge of the yard just a few years ago. By the time the breezes of fall have escorted in the wilder winds of winter, its leaves are long gone. And it's one of the first trees in the yard to begin unfurling the new-green glory of spring.
I feel suspended exactly between the two. Neither winter nor spring, but yet both somehow.
Smoke floats across the yard, carrying the occasional oak leaf with it. Walt's burning last year's cuttings and brush - so much accumulates from a place with so many trees. It will take a couple of days before the pile is reduced to a gray circle surrounded by grass, the perfect symbolism from which cliche is born.
I wonder how long it will take for my deadwood, my dead leaves, to be replaced with new life, fresh hope, a lighter perspective.
Winter was hard this year. Not the weather of winter but the length of it, the death inherent in it, the darkness of it. It clings to me still, even as I soak up the sun of a new season. I wonder at its persistence. I worry that I won't be able to shed the last of the dead leaves, and that somehow, this time, the new growth won't come in.
Is this what being older does? Makes winter hang around a bit longer every year until there is nothing left but that? No. I refuse that notion. There will always be new green to counter the ashes. There will.
But in my suspension between seasons, I have a sense of transformation. Something that requires more than a planetary orbit to complete. Something that manages to include both winter and spring no matter what the calendar says. Something I can't quite yet name - or grasp.
That, I believe, is connected to being in the shallows of old age. The horizon I see is significantly different than at any other time of my life. My body refuses to be ignored. My mind ignores me all the time. My feelings are alien to me, much in the same way as those of adolescence. Death and the mystery of what lies beyond are real, and loom every so slightly larger every day.
This suspended space reveals my dreams in the oak tree. Some lived to their fulfillment and long off the tree. Others unfulfilled and still hanging from the branch, dry and dead. I see the possibilities of new dreams in the maple, but I can't reach those until I release the oak dreams. Until I accept and grieve the dreams of my younger life that will never come true, I cannot aspire to new ones.
The sun is out finally. Smoke and the occasional oak leaf continue to drift across my line of sight. The maple branches nod gently in a breeze that shows up every afternoon at this time. I will walk, pain-free and powerfully, into the vibrant air, on the lookout for expressions of spring and the songs they might sing to me, the secrets they might unlock.