This Sad Spring arrived, daffodils, lilacs, baby squirrels, peonies, grass growing. I admit to a renewed amount of energy and relief that the sun is out longer and vaccines are in more and more people’s arms. But along with the child-like enthusiasm for the temporal yellows, purples, reds, blues, and verdant greens, I have a lingering sadness, a loss that twists around my life like a wisteria vine.
Even Spring herself isn’t as whole-hearted as usual, she arrives sotto voce, as though compelled to apologize for her flamboyance; she keeps herself in check. She slips in, bridles her dervish energy, no super bloom, only allows a quiet, dignified, slow evolution from darkness to light. This year, spring breezes wear a black mourning band.
How many of us are gone? How many lives now vapor, now a forgotten photograph, now stardust? Some close to me; I hear their voices still, see their hand stroke the dog, their mirth at catching me in a gaff. They wore their hopes on their sleeves, now rent and turned to ash. And there are thousands I do not know, but all, all their departures generate a vortex, a contrary spinning gust that uniquely chills this season.
There are other things I mourn, not deaths per se, but loss nevertheless. Gone is the naïve belief that “It can’t happen here,” that “Common sense will win out,” that empathy is universal.
I once believed that if a man couldn’t breathe – all my countrymen and women would rush in to feverishly fill him with our glorious air.
There is a theory in sociology that we all are surrounded by a Phantom Community which includes all the people who have influenced our lives for good or evil, even though they are gone. It’s as if their influence never leaves us, that we act and respond to what we believe they might say or expect of us.
My Phantom Community is vast now and they whisper when I least expect it, when my guard is down, when I hike through the wide Engelmann oaks or the creosote bush, or the Coulter pines. I scramble up over a rock and I hear my father’s advice, my acting teacher’s put-downs, my baby’s dying cry. They guide my hands as I plant the iris bulb from Boulder, feed the birds like Grandma, when I steal a view of Mexico, when my mind drifts to Albuquerque, to Youngstown, to Gunnison, to the relentless statistics on the news.
Sometimes I rush to shut them out, tell them to take a rest, to relax, I can handle it on my own. I look to the future, to examine the baby-blue-eyes wildflower, to laugh and shake the dust out of the rugs, to prune the roses, to watch for the return of the black-headed grossbeak…and stubbornly, every night, I fill two bowls for my pair of feral cats though one has disappeared.