Spring

Spring comes to us in a sudden abundance that makes me long to commit theft. I stop my bicycle one day to admire a climbing vine adorned with pink blossoms and a tree behind a fence with purple and white buds, almond-shaped but as big as the palms of my hands. I steal a pink one, and am tempted, even in my work clothes, to climb a wrought-iron fence and get one of those big violet almonds so that I can have it.

To have is one of my chief desires. I am not always the best at caring for things once I have them (to my shame, I sometimes have to be reminded to feed my cats). I am better with plants, because plants are a being of perpetual acquisition: tend to a plant and it gets bigger, becomes more, and therefore is always in a state in which it is both something you have and something you desire. Cats largely stay the same until their old age and its attendant ailments begin, at which point the experience of owning a cat becomes an experience of extended loss. Which is not to say I don’t love them, just that I am perpetually aware that they are in decline.

When I love a person, one of the things that I chiefly desire is to improve upon their life. This impulse is partially about service, but also about myself: your greater store increases mine. Sometimes this is helpful; sometimes though, I can sense some impatience with my insistence that we paint the kitchen, buy the new dress, take the weekend class. Why can I not enjoy the experience of basking in the presence of the lover without constantly wanting to Spice Up The Relationship or Take Things To The Next Level? Why can I not let those violet buds stay on the tree? Perhaps because if things are in a state of improving, I can tell myself that they are not yet entering a state of decline, when really these two states are nested inside one another.

Yesterday at a restaurant I ordered a piece of sashimi, thinking that was one of those pieces of fish balanced on a brick of compressed rice and tied with a little seaweed cigar-band. “That’s nigiri,” said my Colleague. “Sashimi is just fish.”

Just fish indeed; a pink, translucent piece of trembling flesh with a slight curve on top. I ate it. Unlike the other sushi I order, which tends toward the cream-cheese-and-spicy-brown-sauce variety, this tasted like iron, and its chill reminded me of the drafts of cold air from parking garages at this time of the year, which even on a sunny day billow out clouds of cold miasma. It made me think of raw oysters, of the gulp followed by a gasp.

Spring is hard because it feels like an uncertain time. We know intellectually that it will get warmer, that summer will come, but the cold nights and the days when wind and rain pelt down as fierce as winter make it seem like it could go either way. Spring is the season of new love because it shares that property of hopeful anxiety, of rising and falling fortunes. Summer is a tranquil sea; spring is the breakers at its shore. Come summer, we will miss these early days in which everything is to be gained or lost. And of course winter follows from summer, so wanting it to be summer sooner is also asking for winter to come faster. Wanting the future is asking for the arrival of loss, for the aging of the faces you love, for the decline of hearts and bones.

But the lesson of spring isn’t that we should appreciate only the present. Instead, it is that wanting, having, losing are all transitory, and have their own particular pleasures, and must all be savored. There is pleasure in the opening bud and pleasure in the gasp of cold air. It is our task to attune our senses so that we approach wanting, having, and losing with equal dignity, so that every part of our lives can be as keenly and joyfully felt as we can stand.