Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Living in the past

...is easy to do, when you woke up this morning and it was 20 degrees and a bitter north wind was blowing, when for much of the past week you were basking in the T-shirted, sun-drenched glory of 80 degrees. All the spring flowers - snowdrop, crocus, hyacinth, forsythia, magnolia, azalea - were blooming. Trees and hedges were budding. Birds were rioting. The dog craved to be out. You closed your eyes and almost thought of nothing.

At the time, of course, you couldn't fully enjoy the bounty, because it was unnatural to have summer in winter, and you knew we'd pay for it later. You were right. Living in the moment is hard when you know that the next one waits to strike.

I suppose the robin and the azalea deal these thaws and freezes more simply. They live neither in the past nor the future. They expect neither the best or the worst. Only humans do. Humans plan and regret. Humans connive and mourn. A phone call comes from afar and suddenly your father is dead. You're called into a conference room and suddenly you're fired. You say goodbye to a friend and then the email suddenly arrives and you know you won't see him alive again. But you also know that change is the essence of stasis, that death is the essence of life. You knew your father and your friend were sick. You knew things weren't quite right at work. You have the ability to expect the unexpected. The trick is to seize that last hug and know it for what it's worth, then and now and when.

Yesterday, in spite of the cold and the wind, scores of finches were singing in the spruces. The hostas and daylilies had started their push in last week's warmth, but had sensibly stopped after an inch. Wood frogs were "quacking" in the swamps. They know, irrespective of temperature and bad news, that better times are coming. They don't know this intellectually, or emotionally, or obsessively. They know that the past and the future are the same, propelling the moment.

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