"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, April 1, 2013


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.


Barb said...

Hello Deb,
I am the oak. I've been ill most of the winter - unusual for me. Perhaps to teach me a lesson I need to learn? I don't think we have to let go of dreams - yet. But, to accept and grieve loss, that is a different story. I've enjoyed visiting with you. I've been off-line much of the winter, also at an in-between space. Let's both walk confidently out into a new beginning - perhaps we can call it spring!

yaya said...

I tasted a bit of Spring in your neck of the woods and it was glorious! It was snowing a bit at my house this afternoon...it has been a long winter but I'm always hopeful for a delightful Spring. Your writing is so beautiful.

Jessica Nelson said...

I hope old age doesn't mean death like that...I hope it means peace and contentment. But maybe it won't. I love the analogies here and hope spring is eternal in your heart. ;-)

DJan said...

A pensive and lovely post, Deb. But the words that thrill me are about you walking pain-free and powerfully into the vibrant air. Yes indeed! Thank you for this beautifully written piece. Sending you lots of love, too...

Linda Reeder said...

I don't know what you have gone through this winter. I don't know the pain you have overcome to now walk "pain free, and powerfully". But I find your writing to be so powerful and evocative of the emotions we may feel as we enter the autumn of our lives.
Given that, I am the maple, already bursting forth into spring. The bird song each morning, and the sweetness in the air, and the flowers opening everywhere tell me that even in old age one can revel in renewal.

#1Nana said...

I found this piece unsettling...something under the surface, not sure what exactly, is nagging at me. It is dark and I found myself wondering if you were okay. So, please tell me I'm imagining things.

We've had glorious weather the past few days. I hope the sun is shining on you and the trees are budding...our apricot tree is blooming!

Teresa Coltrin said...

Winter is a hard season to live in continually. Spring does come. The warmth will help replace dead leaves with new life. Just don't pinch off the buds before they unfold or you'll miss out.


kario said...

It is sometimes hard to just be where we find ourselves, especially if we feel as though we have been too long in one place. I know how you love Spring and all its glory, but I hope you can find some redeeming value in the quiet rest of Winter for now.


Pam said...

Deb, I've missed you.
One of the redeeming factors of being this age, is the strong friendships that see us through - particularly women who have seen it all and you know that just an arm around the shoulder can convey
"understand completely".
I like that more and more as I get older - the friendships where we go into this next stage of our lives together. It's good to have a partner - it's good to have friends and it's great to have a writer of your talents to express many of the feelings that most of us have difficulty expressing.

Retired English Teacher said...

Deb, your words are truly evocative of much of what I too have been going through this winter. It has been a rough one. Thankfully, you write that you are somewhere between winter and spring. Isn't that how this time of year can be so often? It seems when I was younger, I had a different response to spring. Aging does change us. We can't ignore our bodies, nor can we ignore where we are in life, yet I hope for you that the season of new growth is greater than you had imagined.

I've missed you. I thought of you often. Like Jann, I would like to know you are doing ok. Take care my friend.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb, the bugs and chills that winter brings seem to be going on forever but those buds on the trees wont be denied - Spring is on the way at last! Your words live on the page. Debbie

Dee said...

Dear Deb, these evocative words spoke so poignantly to me: "Until I accept and grieve the dreams of my younger life that will never come true, I cannot aspire to new ones." Like you, I am in that arc between the spring of my life and what Richard III/Shakespeare/Steinbeck called "the winter of our discontent." And I'm struggling hard to look beyond that to the year of meaning and fulfillment.

I think of this as the arc between Harry Potter's wand tip and Voldemort's in that scene between them at the end of Book 4: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Within that arc came all those who loved Harry and whom Voldemort--the chilled cliche of hatred--had killed. And it is those who have gone before me and those who live now and care for my beingness and those who will come after to bless where my footsteps have trod that keep me looking beyond winter to a future that is caught up not in seasons but in simply being. We're on this journey together, Deb. Peace.

Dee said...

Dear Deb, PS: for myself the point that comes with letting go of the past and embracing the now and the future is the point when I let myself sink into gratitude for what was and what is and what will be. It seems that to begin and to end everything with gratitude makes for a contented heart. Or so I have come to experience. Peace.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow. What you have written here is deeply meaningful to so many of us. Winters are always difficult for me, but this one was both long and punishing. I am having to make healthy changes that I should have made years ago. Not making them now has consequences, because I am old. Yes, grieve the losses of the past, and then cheer the budding of the maple tree (soon, I hope, for both of us!).

Sandi said...

Hi Deb!
Just wanted to leave a quick note. I finally got around to reading your post and plan to email later. Boy oh boy am I with you.

I think this was truly a winter of discontent for me. And I find myself impatient with the slowness of spring, even though I just realized that suddenly the French lilac outside my window is completely leafed out! I don't know when it happened, as the last time I noticed, there were still bare branches.

It's hard to accept those dreams that we're pretty sure aren't going to happen (like that wrap around front porch!). And, I too am tired of my memory failing me, and my aches ever more noticeable.

Sending you love and light as we charge into the home stretch for the year. Summer will arrive, whether spring ever shows up to stay awhile or not!

Mark Lyons said...

Beautiful words for a dark time. I know that the season that you find yourself in will come to and end and transition you into the warmth of a new summer...both literally and figuratively.

I love your writing...and I love you.


Linda Myers said...

What Jann and Sally said. How are you doing?

We spent two months in Tucson sunshine and came home to clouds and rain. The days are getting longer, but I feel heavy under the overcast. Finally realized I need to get out every day in the morning and get some exercise.

Terri Tiffany said...

You have described where I am right now. I love how you said you needed to let the other dreams go before you can reach out to the new ones--I think that's the painful part of growing old but yet we can have those new dreams, can't we?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I just read this today. I feel the weight you carry but I already know that it is lifted for now. Bless you.