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Snowdrops, after calling down the snow. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Snowdrops, after calling down the snow. (Photo via Wikimedia)

BLOG— Waking up to spring

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The world is waking up to spring, I wrote over the weekend. Two days later, the world and I woke up to snow. It’s falling as I write this, a fine icy dust. Everything I see is dressed in lace, ready for the big event.

Which is? Well, it’s hard to tell. White lace is the classic fancy-wear of brides, of course. My husband, Grant, and I had a courthouse wedding —  the Honorable Michael Murray worked us in between hearings — but even to that rather quick and dress-down event, I wore a tiny bit of creamy lace. I felt calm and solemn in it.

February, March and even early April yo-yo us between winter and spring. It seems to be the nature of spring, the nature of beginnings, to come in fits and starts. To show green tips one day, and hide them in snow the next. I saw snowdrops over the weekend — a patch of hundreds in the side yard of a house on Dayton Street. They’re the perfect emblem of beginnings, I think. Heads tucked, low to the ground. Start small, they say.

When Grant and I got married, we started small. The ceremony was, by our choice, an exchange of simple vows in front of a genial judge who regaled us with stories of other couples’ weddings. (“Stop talking about them!” I wanted to shout at the time, but I later liked the fact that we were linked to all those strangers. I remember them now as well-behaved, if uninvited, guests to our wedding, a favor it’s possible we paid forward by entering Judge Murray’s lore and becoming wedding crashers ourselves.) Grant and I went away for the weekend and came back to the life we’d already shared for six years. Nothing was different, really.

Or: nothing was really different, but things were different. Marriage is a series of incremental merges. The big ones: finances, families, names — if one so chooses — happen upfront, and fast. But the smaller ones take time, at least in our experience. We continued to keep our book collections separate, for instance. We had our own closets, did our own laundry. In clean states and dirty, our clothes held onto their autonomy.

But when we moved into our new house, we introduced our books to one another, properly and formally, for the first time. “Jane Austen, meet John McPhee.” Our new bedroom has a walk-in (or really, stoop-in) closet, and so it seemed to make sense to commingle our clothes. “Cowl-neck sweater, meet Dickies denim work shirt.” Laundry is still the duty of the clothes-wearer, or clothes-dirtier, though.

The big event of marriage both was and wasn’t. The big shifts were assimilated pretty rapidly; the details of dovetailing took time. And the feelings, even toward someone you love and have loved for years, do not unfold in the orderly, rapturous sequence of fantasy spring. Instead, they follow the course of actual spring — it’s April one day, January redux the next. You feel married, and then you don’t. The ground freezes, the ground thaws. New life is coming up — crocus buds, daffodil leaf-tips — but in fact it’s long been there, underground. In spring, the potential becomes a little more actual as the weeks go by. Then it goes by, and everything that was once a possibility is really here, all around. Hello, summer.

But that’s getting ahead, way ahead, of myself. It’s still February, a strange and diffident month. It’s a little scared of its own boldness, so ducks its head, like the snowdrops, and calls down the snow.

There’s another big event that warrants lace. I was at the A.M.E. church this past Sunday, communion Sunday, and many women in the congregation wore gorgeous dresses of white lace. Communion is a new beginning — “Go forth and sin no more,” the pastor said — and a deeply human one. It derives its power not from the fantasy of “everything’s different now,” but from the reality of “everything’s different now, and you can come back and make it different all over again in four weeks.” Renewal doesn’t happen once and for all, but through recursion and reversal. On your way to getting things a little more right, you get a lot of things wrong.

Four mild days in a row, and I’m sure it’s spring. Snow falls and I realize, it is spring. This is what spring is.


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