|Harbingers of Spring|
However, I didn’t choose to major in English. My parents and siblings all wrote in one form or another, and I followed their example. Consequently, I never thought writing was something to study; it was something you did. My choice for an undergraduate major was Psychology (the study of the mind). I couldn’t have explained it at the time, but I eventually realized that I wanted to understand why people behave the way they do, starting with members of my own family. I also began to know that I was happy to write about anything—especially if someone was paying me—because the joy came from creating words on a blank page that precisely conveyed what was in my mind. This consciousness of motivation eventually led me to graduate study of Communication Theory (with an emphasis on journalism). For me, writing is the craft and communication is the art, and together they become my creative vehicle.
With the leisure of old age, I have returned to the study of the mind as something of a hobby. This happened because Robin and I share books from Audible.com, and his choices sometimes lead me down alleys I might not have explored on my own. It was through various audiobooks that I became aware of the explosion of research in brain science. Coincidentally I also discovered the studies of brain plasticity involving Buddhist monks during periods of meditation. Since then I’ve been reading or listening to books and articles that explore how monks and scientists are increasing the understanding of how the brain operates to enable the work of our conscious mind. I can grasp the conclusions but I’m a long way from understanding the process. However, in subtle ways this hobby-study has become a part of my joy in writing. When my brain makes a connection between two seemingly disparate bits of information, I say “Thank you, Brain,” because I have a small sense of how those smidgens of knowledge found each other. At my age, the brain functions are still there, but they work more slowly and sometimes hit dips in the road; that’s why I decided it is a good practice to take notice and express appreciation when it works well. I’m also mindful of my brain when I sit to meditate.
This week I will welcome spring with the vernal equinox on March 20. And any day now I will also be welcoming the newest member of our extended family; the first child of my grandson Miles and his wife Polly (my extraordinary copyeditor) is due on the 23rd These are two expansive events that embody new life, growth, and love. Spring is also a time of movement as warm days, daffodils, and blossoming trees will beckon us to put on our walking shoes and get out there! Against this blessed and welcome backdrop, I have started the process of waking up my sleeping shoulder with initially gentle physical therapy that—just as the days are lengthening—will become more intense as the muscle fibers stretch.
I came home from two months in Tybee on the first day of March, and the next fifteen days were mostly cold and windy. Granted I was tired from the aftermath of my shoulder trauma and the process of packing up at one end of the trip and unpacking at the other, but I was also experiencing a strange state of mind. As I tried to express my feelings to some family members, I made a large circle in front me with my arms saying, “I want to gather everything in and hold it close.” I was speaking of feelings, thoughts, dreams, desires—in short, all the intangibles that affect the quality of life. I was not ready for expansion. I was not even ready for shoulder therapy because I had no desire for exertion of any kind. When I discussed this with Tammy, we talked about similar feelings just before giving birth, and wondered if we might also have such feelings as we near death. For many days I continued with the image of gathering and holding close my sense of personhood.
One day last week the weather forecast suggested the temperature might drop into the teens overnight, and I went out and picked the only three daffodils that were open. I said a few words of encouragement to all the buds that I hoped would survive the night. Only a day later we had warm sunshine, and when I returned from physical therapy I looked out and saw the proverbial host of golden daffodils and paler jonquils that edge one of my garden beds. I stood on my deck and flung wide my arms—I let go of all that I had gathered in. I declared to the blue sky that I was ready for new life; ready to move my shoulder and my legs; ready for spring; and ready to write about it!