A New Way of Being

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.   from “The Trees” by Philip Larkin

“What is all this juice and all this joy?” wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in “Spring.” I keep thinking these words as I walk around, unable to even take in the explosion of buds and blossoms. April was so slow in coming, and even Monday while we were visiting friends in Brooklyn, we walked down brownstone-lined streets clutching our too thin coats, shivering. But then by Tuesday, any hesitation seemed to have lifted. And that ephemeral moment of citron green watercolor branches just before all of the buds burst so violently, was over. Suddenly, the air is full of sunlight and bees. The pavement is hot to the touch, geese are gorging themselves on the green field across the street from my house, and the birdsong has an urgency to it as if they’ll soon grow hoarse. Spring might be just a bit of a show-off. It’s nothing if not extravagant.

Seasons are a time of transition, but I read somewhere in the fall that we don’t allow ourselves to move in the rhythm of the seasons. We have one pace, one rhythm, and it’s generally too fast. But instead of trying to keep up our pace in fall and winter, the article encouraged us to slow down and hibernate just as the rest of nature does in winter. I liked that article! It gave me permission to stay inside, have multiple tea times a day, and go to sleep the same time as my nine-year-old. Let’s face it, nothing much productive was happening after she went to sleep anyway.

This morning I think I’m trying to fall in line with this season’s rhythm, but it’s caught me a bit off guard, and I’m not sure what that means. The annual infiltration of the ants in both of our bathrooms has happened. At any moment one or two small ants can be seen trying to find their way. Their movement is befuddled, a bit desperate, but also slightly curious as they navigate through pathways of grout and over the black and white lots that are my floor tiles. This isn’t the dark soil or even dry dirt they are accustomed to. Maybe they’ve been too eager for spring, and gotten off course. I feel a bit like that too. “Don’t kill them!” says my daughter. “I can carry them one at a time outside!” I put Borax on my shopping list (the one in my head because I’m not that organized).

If winter was tea and early bedtimes, not demanding as much of myself, what does this new rhythm look like? I don’t wish to be like those ants, jumping the gun, full steam ahead, only to find myself in the strange topography of an endless maze of grout lines. How to navigate into this next season- this season where the pace increases so dramatically? This season of field day, and girl scout camping trips, spring concerts, piano recitals, and “Have you figured out what you’re doing this summer?”

Slowly, I think, which is so counter-intuitive when we see all this juice and all this joy, when the pace of many around us never even slowed in winter. Slowly, and with patience. It is so tempting to rush into doing…but I think what is necessary, not just now but so often, is finding a new way of being.

I’d made a date with a friend to write today from 9-10 while she works on her creative projects. We live in two different states, but this kind of accountability, knowing she’s sitting in her chair there, while I sit in mine here, helps. So, I move the yellow ranunculus I had in the kitchen to the dining room with my computer, and I even light a candle. This feels extravagant given the long to-do list I’ve just written. But maybe that’s what this new rhythm is. We can leave behind “survival” and enter into abundance. Everywhere you look screams “There is more than enough!” No more hoarding, stockpiling or conserving. It looks like an opening, a ripening, not a rushing or running about like my poor lost ants. Exuberant, not chaotic. Lavish, but not forced.

I reread Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” on the train back from Brooklyn—a small book full of wisdom—and will leave you with his words:

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

4 thoughts on “A New Way of Being”

  1. Thanks Julia for the invitation to move from survival to abundance. It reminds me of “the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:28) in Eugene Peterson’s Message. That’s going to be my lesson for the week.

    1. Wow- thanks for sharing that. I just looked up that translation and it’s so beautiful. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

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