Spring-loaded

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it? One that just doesn’t seem to want to leave. A few weeks ago spring felt inevitable; now it feels like it’s hiding from us. We are past the equinox, the vernal one, the one that is kin to a panoply of fresh green words like verdant and verdure and vert — yet here in New York I am donning snowboots.

Yesterday was my birthday, and it is a funny time to be born, this liminal space between seasons. I had not thought about it quite this way until I read a poem by Alice Walker in a book my friend Ashlea gave me yesterday. The book is called The World Will Follow Joy, so I think it may appeal to some of you. And inside it, I discovered a poem about being born in March. Here it is, if you’d like to read it.

March Births
by Alice Walker

Many brave souls
who inhabit my heart
entered the brightening
but still chilly door
of earthly Life in the changeable month
of March.

The deep, noble, easily bruised
Pisceans

Flowers
Themselves

Arrived in that part of the month
when hardly one white or lavender
crocus, daring, vulnerable
& sweet
can be found;
except perhaps
in the prescient
South.

And those others:
the late in the month
born
Ariesians—
Dragons
And butterflies—
Who were born
it seems
to set this world
of shyness
& daffodils
stunningly
on fire.

It was my destiny
to behold and to cherish
you all.

What these births
at winter’s end
teach us to believe
is that what looks
frozen or even dead
may burst into bloom
unexpectedly
at any time.

That to love
another,
any other, is to align oneself
with eternal spring.

It is in fact
Loving
any other being
all one ever needs
one’s self
To come to bud
& flower
once more
& be born
Again.

I don’t think you need to be March-born to find something inside this poem. It is really a poem about this time, the time before spring, when we believe we are emptied out from winter but the world tells us we can get still more empty, still more ready for the abundance to come. It’s about the anticipation that not-yet-spring holds, the coiled tightness of seed leaves pressed in their brown cases, the vigor of stamens and sepals spring-loaded into green buds. (You see them dotting the trees, like lightbulbs not yet wired up, and don’t you marvel at what force bursts them open? And then marvel again to think that it is nothing more than sunlight and water?) And it’s about renewal, more broadly: the life hidden below the surface of things, and how we can access it even in times it seems unavailable to us.

Sometimes we wonder what our birthdays mean, searching a horoscope for some reflection of ourselves in there, and for a few seconds we let ourselves believe that the alignment of planetary bodies at the moment of our first wail matters in some cosmic way. But rarely have I considered a far more practical question, which is how the earthly conditions of my birth matter in how I see the world. I wonder how it’s formed me, the condition of the earth, the temperature, the colors. And what does it say about me that though on my birthday it always feels like winter, I somehow still believe I am born in spring?

Though it’s hard to see it now, we are almost through this winter, and this week I will try to post some beautiful things to draw spring out. And in the meantime, savor the quiet! And make more space for the joy to fill…

Hey, Guess What?

The Aesthetics of Joy is now a book! Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness is now available.

Learn more

3 Comments

  1. Sandi Vetter

    Thank you for this beautifully written post and for sharing the poem.
    Quite a few special people in my life ( both my parents) were born in March and they are indeed..”deep and noble” and “Flowers themselves”.
    Happy Birthday to you!
    And as Latvians wish( and sing)- May you have many WHITE (good) days! ( Daudz baltu dieninu!)

  2. Geeta Sadashivan

    Hmm interesting question. What were the earthly conditions of my birth and how has that influenced the way I see the world?

    Mid-November. I know it was stormy—strong winds and a lot of rain– my mother told me that. Probably gray, grim, cold and wet. Foggy and misty, with low visibility.

    Some people doing online doing “aesthetic moodboards” visualize November as all orange and yellow fall leaves, pumpkins, gourds, and pies, and bonfires and hot chocolate. It seems more like holding on to the memory of October than acknowledging the reality of November. But why not? What does it say about me that though by mid-November, it’s all gray, I give thanks for the memory of fall leaves?

    Here’s a beautiful poem by John Updike about my birth-month:

    The stripped and shapely
    Maple grieves
    The loss of her
    Departed leaves.
    The ground is hard,
    As hard as stone.
    The year is old,
    The birds are flown.
    And yet the world,
    Nevertheless,
    Displays a certain
    Loveliness–
    The beauty of the bone.
    Tall God
    Must see our souls
    This way, and nod.

Leave a Comment