Though the rain gods obviously have yet to get the memo, the spring season has been fighting real hard to make its entrance ’round these parts of late. With the exception of an errant sunny afternoon here and there, this has been a gruelingly dreary wind-up to the promise of warmer and dryer weather. Just the other day, while walking home from the dog park quite early in the morning, I was thinking to myself how fed up I felt from still needing to turn on the heat in my house in the middle of May, when I stopped in my tracks at the sight of something that made me feel suddenly very happy: the first of this year’s lilacs coming into bloom.
Starting that morning, and continuing every morning since, I’ve been ending my mostly rain-soaked morning walks with something decidedly more cheerful—picking little bouquets of lilac blossoms. There is something undeniably joyful about walking with freshly picked flowers, my fingers sticky with the green juices of the torn stems. Even when the rest of the scene is clearly still stuck in winter mode, that little bundle of springtime in my hands is enough to put me in an incredibly upbeat mental state. I noticed that this tiny addition to my morning routine has positively influenced my mood throughout the rest of the day. And then I got to thinking about all the little ways I make even my 5:30 am wakeups more fun. I listen to music in the mornings while I get dressed, stop often to bend down and kiss my pup on the head, and I make my outfit selection into a little game, where I try not to repeat the same outfit twice (my obscenely large wardrobe easily accommodates this game). And when I get into work, I try to get into the elevator by myself and, once there, I dance as silly and as freely as I please until the doors open to my floor. I’m not sure if those elevator cars are monitored, but if they are, I’m sure I give the security crew quite a laugh. But I don’t care—those 10 seconds of uninhibited dancing in the morning puts a sort of ridiculous, unshakable smile in my heart that generally lasts the whole day through.
I may not be happy all day, every day, but I do feel happiness every single day. This is no easy feat, to be certain, but I manage to keep it up. Like my father, I try to spread this around as much as I can. Smiles have a way of being contagious, you know, and I like to think that my good moods affect those around me—both friends and strangers alike. Desmon Tutu said, “”Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” I think he’s right about this, and besides–isn’t it all those little bits of good that brighten up our own private worlds?
By now, my house is overflowing with the white and purple lilac bunches held in mason jars and juice glasses, perfuming the air with that familiarly sanguine scent. It reminds me, by way of contrast, of a poem I wrote some time ago, when winter still felt unending and when I didn’t feel so happy every day. Not so happy at all.
I guess springtime means something a little different each year it rolls by. Sure am glad to have one of those happy ones this time around.
Now It Is February
In January my father was one month gone,
and I returned to college, pale from a Wisconsin winter
filled with death and snow.
In March I slept in your bed,
warm under your blankets and breath,
waiting all night to be touched.
You were a spoiled man. Arrogant, handsome,
young. You found a neediness you liked in me,
held my shoulders while I cried on your lap. Night
after night. In March, we skied the bowls of a mountain
you and I stopping to kiss in the snow. You knew
it was a forever of that kissing that I wanted.
In May you crept into my house late one night,
held a handful of lilac blossoms to my nose
and woke me by whispering, Baby—smell.
By September you’d gone, graduated, grown tired
of us. You crept into my bed when you came to town,
and I let you, though I knew you wouldn’t stay.
Now it is February, almost ten years later. We each
have found success, new lives, other loves. We both have
broken engagements behind us—an uncommon commonality.
We each have not thought of the other often. That much
is clear. But in springtime I watch the lilac trees
flutter and brown in the wind, and remember
the feeling of your whispered baby against my ear,
can still smell the lilac blossoms
made sweeter by the heat of your palms.