A Life Is Passing. My Life.

I remember my bedroom in the basement of our house when I was young. The window sat at the ground level, and I would spend winter nights watching as the snow whirled around the golden circle of the street lights on the other side of our fence. Even with my footed woolen nightie, I felt a chill on my neck as the wildness of the storm was held at bay by a few inches of glass. I had the desire to wrap my down comforter around me and sleep till spring. A life is passing. My life.

My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – It gives a lovely light.

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand; Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand. 

–Edna St. Vincent Millay, First and Second Fig

Vincent embodies spring: fresh, original, scandalous. The red tulips and yellow daffodils are early bloomers shouting their arrival while the snow still lies on their shoulders. They don’t give a damn: they brazenly flaunt what they have while it is still theirs. Their lives are short lived, but glorious and brave. The new green of leaves in the spring is my favorite color, with the sunlight filtering down from above, illuminating the skeletal system of these tissue-thin specimens. I search daily for the first robin with his bright red chest and happy trill, while my enthusiasm for the warmer weather generally means that I will be caught in a sudden rain storm in a skirt and sandals. I never let this get me down. When caught in the rain, dance.

The first snowstorm of winter I always spend in bed. Making excuses to employers and teachers alike, I make a pot of steaming tea and pull a down comforter up around my chin and turn my attention to the Old Hollywood screen stars. Even with 4-wheel drive, I’m terrified of icy roads. I like to feel control resting in my hands, yet my death grip on the steering wheel provides no comfort when – all four wheels slipping – I slide through an intersection. A life is passing. My life.

Why did he love storms: what was the meaning of his excitement when the door sprang open and the rain wind fled rudely up the stairs, why had the simple task of shutting the windows of an old house seem fitting and urgent, why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings. 

–John Cheever, The Swimmer

Days that last till 9 pm provide ample time for Jailbreak, Red Rover, and watermelon seed spitting contests. The smells of summer are my favorite part: the sharp, sweet scent of the barbeque, freshly cut grass, the dark soil with ever-ripening vegetables, flowers. Even the smell of chlorine reminds me of summer – long hours by the crystal blue water, baking in the sun then plunging into the cool liquid with the enthusiasm of my Grandma’s black lab leaping into the lake after a tossed ball. When I was a child, summer would last forever; now it passes steadily by while I watch the sun rising and setting and wishing that time could be held in two hands.

I feel I have been cold for days. I feel each of my bones though they are buried deep in muscle, tissue, ligaments, and blood vessels. My fingers shrink and ache, my feet are a heavy dullness, and I wonder how I will ever defrost. Is it possible for a snow cloud to rest on the ground? The swollen gray sky smothers the frozen earth while the rules of gravity are defied by snow flakes attacking me from all angles. What complaint does the wind have against me? What wrong will she right by erasing me? I end each day in a wet dream: the tub full of silky bubbles and steam condensing on my martini glass as I attempt to raise my core temperature to a reasonable level. A life is passing. My life.

autumn will cure me / if it does not/ i will die when everything / is cool and gold

–aaron abeyta, heard poem

The relentless heat of summer finally breaks as autumn struts into town. My favorite constellations begin to peak over the horizon while the earth breathes a sigh of relief. Thin sheets I once kicked aside are now covered with a heavy comforter; the cracked window admits an enchanting cool breeze. The tired green colors are vibrant, now defying death with an extravagant display. This is the time for family and for storytelling. Personal histories rise with the sparks on air scented with wood burning. The smoldering orange and yellow of the campfire mesmerizes us; we cannot look away. We are like marshmallows, twisting and turning each side to the fire in an attempt to stay golden warm.

Please don’t let me stop thinking and start blindly, frighteningly accepting, afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think, to think and live, to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding and new love. … You have forgotten the secret you knew, once, ah, once, of  being joyous, of laughing, of opening doors. … I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person. Because for all the theories about condensation and a temperature above 32, for all that, it is pleasant for the optical nerves to register the impluse of floating, frozen ashes, of motion that enhances space behind. I can almost fancy that the house across the street is melting and crumbling into whiteness.

–Sylvia Plath, Journals

Everything is made up of beginning and endings. The beginning of one thing is the end of another and the end of one thing is the beginning of another.  Season click by; cycles repeat themselves; I am a small part of a larger story, one that has been going on for eons and will continue after I draw my last breath. The footsteps I take today echo the ones I took yesterday and the day before that. A deeper echo resonates in my chest as I hear the footsteps of the generations who have gone before me; their ambitions, their emotions, their plans weigh heavily on my shoulders. Will they find an answer in me? Do I have the strength to fulfill our combined dreams? Do I have the courage to try?

Winter must be cold for those who have no memories. And we’ve already missed the spring.

–Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember

My spring was stormy; I skimmed the surface of the water never daring to venture deeper, never wanting the responsibility of a life fully lived. As summer begins, I am in up to my neck. I want to dive into the cool water, holding these moments suspended. Autumn is a distant thought: the harvesting of seeds, the moments of achievement, the hope of slowing down and taking in the sunlight thoughtfully. Winter, however, is an ever-present promise and lingers above everything I do. Time stands still for no one, and I am frightened as I rush toward the end of my time. I could get drunk on life. I want to live it more fully. I want to feel more, hear more, taste more, touch more, dance, laugh, love.

There is a desperation that underlies my days: A life is passing. My life.



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