18 March 2008

I believe

A balmy 46F this morning when I set off down the channel trail.

I have the worst case of spring fever...and I'm not just talking allergies, though I am certainly sneezing more than usual.

My family, well acquainted with the vagaries of my mood, have watched with trepidation and amusement. Not that they haven't been afflicted with their own bouts of light-heartedness.

I am talking about being joyously absent-minded. I stand in the middle of the room and can't remember what I'd decided to do 30 seconds before, but it doesn't bother me. Because I'm watching the pink petals sail off the plum tree outside the window.

I am talking about standing at a stop light and actually counting the number of times that I push the button for the WALK signal...and then stopping when I get to 26, wondering what it is exactly that I am doing.

I am talking about going out to walk. I know I can't run, as much as I want to, so I content myself with taking flying leaps on and off curbs. And throwing in a skip or two when no one is looking.

I am talking about the fact that everyone I encountered this morning looked happy. We all grinned and waved at each other. I laughed (when I was fairly sure that no one was listening) at nothing in particular.

The planes glinted in the bright morning light as they flew over my head. I dislike flying. I dislike flying intensely, and sometimes cannot believe that I can talk myself onto an airplane 5 or 6 or more times during a year. A week or two ago, I was looking at the planes with a certain dread, knowing the time is drawing near. But this morning, the thought of getting on a plane was appealing. Because the journey is part of the fun, what lies in the middle is so worth it, and I come home changed, but better.

The spouse, who is wise to my ways (but professes that I am still capable of surprising him), made a disturbed noise last night when he saw me reading the website for the main airport in Moscow, Sheremetyevo.

"They're not..." he started.

"No!" I replied, "and it wouldn't matter, because I don't think I ever need to see Moscow again."

"Oh thank god," he breathed.

I am insatiable when it comes to seeing the world. I am positively greedy for knowledge, and always have been. I learn languages, I go and I won't stay put. I have to walk about cities; I have to look at the people. I need to see what is there.

When I was 10, maybe 11, I remember being crammed into a little utility closet with my classmates to watch a slide show about Leonardo da Vinci.

"Leonardo wrote in his diary that he knew there would not be time enough in his life to learn everything he wanted to know," intoned the narrator.

All I remember is a sinking feeling of horror at that thought. Not enough time?

Last night, the son and I were having another heart-to-heart, and he was bemoaning all the stuff that he needs to do before spring break, and how he just wanted it be over with.

I only really had to bide my time once, and that was my senior year of high school, when I could not wait to be away from that little desert town and out into the world. It's really the only time I've engaged in a countdown when the countdown itself was the only thing I could think about.

"You know," I told the boy, "I'm here at the middle part of my life, and I don't want to count down the days ever again. I want every day to count."

I loved the way his eyes lit up at that idea.

Ultimately, there may not be enough time to know everything or to see everything or to do everything. But I have no plan to let that stop me; it never has. And I'll get on the planes and I'll see what there is to see, everywhere there is something to see. And others will question why I do what I do, but I'll laugh (when they aren't listening) and I'll skip (when they aren't watching), and the ones who understand will laugh with me, and won't hold it against me if I skip (or dance, or just have a whole lot of fun). Not every day is a huge gesture; the small things, like a little boy in the grocery store yelling with glee, "Grandpa, look! STRAWBERRIES!", have value too.

And sorrow comes amidst the joy, but it teaches as well, often the lessons I most need to learn and least want to endure. While I took joy today from watching the petals scatter on the breeze, that simple thing is always a reminder of standing in Arlington National Cemetery a long ago spring day, my high heels sinking into the damp hillside during my grandmother's interment, while across the river, the cherry blossoms began to open for the annual festival. My older cousin smiled at me across the flowers massed on her casket, as I stood there with my mother, more cousins, my aunts and uncles, and I was sure in the knowledge that even though I'm the different one, they still take me as their own. I am the one who never stops asking questions, who is always moving, who WILL argue and WILL NOT do as she's told, but I also have Kathryn's eyes and our grandmother's long limbs and long-fingered hands. In the equation of our individual days and our entwined lives, that counts for something too.

Go listen to some music: "I Believe" from the album Life's Rich Pageant by REM.

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