“Well, what’s the alternative?” she says. “It’s a privilege to have another birthday.”
At the moment, I am staring at a chickadee wiping its beak with lightning speed in the trunk branches of a fir tree, preparing itself for another eager, chipper, industrious round at the bird feeder. There is not a spec of irony or sadness or frustration or irritability or mania in this fabulous creature, nothing but the requirements of the moment and doing what has to be done, everything in the context of lacing itself delicately like a ribbon through the fabric of the natural world. Can I somehow, right now, take this birdie into my heart as a birthday gift?
Because, like roughly 19 million other Earthlings sharing my entry date into the world, I’ve just marked another lap around the sun.
Born in late March — a child of spring — I feel inherently called upon — instinct-bound, in fact — to be one of its cheerleaders. Hooray, life force! And winds of change! And dust that blows! And hooray for the beginning of thaw and underground movement so bold and dedicated the once-frozen earth starts to thrill in a softening mass, soft enough for a slew of primal activity to happen beneath it. There is a world of micro-activity here below me, one armed with the force of a hurricane, only tiny, tiny, tiny.
Now: if I am quiet, reverent and seat myself in the moment squarely without a trace of irony or any other squinty-eyed view of things, I can feel it all singing, stretching, beneath my feet, pulsating, shoving up to try to meet the air and sun. Our noses can smell life in the soil and water and air. Our eyes can be arrested, won over by the sheer force of a willow bud on our path, arcing down, first in a tender bud and then coated with fur. Fur! We can touch anything newly, greenly fresh with our fingertips or our lips and feel a crushing tenderness and happiness for the sheer force of life.
It’s not that I don’t ever longingly recall other springs in other places — especially places where spring itself seems to spring eternal. Places like dewy Seattle, where daffodils herald February instead of sneaky snowstorms. And Hawaii, where the spring flowers, trumpeting in their loud and psychedelically tropical way, constitute only one of four boisterous, brilliant seasons. And New York City, where cherry blossoms in the park burst into candy-floss snowflakes, and then fall lightly, landing on people’s heads, brushing their cheeks with the lightest of touches, rising to meet their noses with the most delicate of smells. I’ve had spring in Paris, too, where sweaters are timidly shed and floral scarves vie for attention with the real flowers, and where, briefly, the slate gray of the city fades into the background as exuberant pops of foreground color rise up. All of it is sweet and special and speaks to the spring-born in me.
But it’s from this perch in the San Juan Mountains that I wave my little lichen pom-poms around with the most enthusiasm and abandon; because though spring may come in fits and starts, the stop-and-go reawakens me to its glory over and over, until, silly dense human that I am, I start to get it.
Here, during a March thaw, you might see a butterfly, a single black-winged one moving in that haphazard way they do, like shards of night sky, then see it disappear into — what? And to come back — when? Then another storm will invariably blow in, bringing with it a wet, white blanket and the ensuing days will drip with spring melt, rivers will swell and red-winged blackbirds will arrive in force, perching themselves in bushes and indulging what seems to be a bodily need for constant singing.
I like the way the newborn calves down the road drop to the earth with little thuds and curl up, whether it’s snow or bright green grass beneath them, as their mothers hover. I like waiting and waiting some more for all the green-tipped aspens to blow open and unfurl, millions of green leaves quaking in unison. I like the surprise of spring in the mountains, the fickleness of it, its force and its gentleness. Like reeds, we profit most by bending in the gusty winds, and going along.
Above us, and far, far away through an eternity of black space, there are Red Giant Stars that make our planet seem miniscule — literally. But in the spring, when tiny pinpoints of life begin moving the earth like bulldozers, I feel the might and power of life force, and feel in my bones that it’s bigger than I can know.