In fear of Spring

eternally nostalgic

In late July, as I was photographing a friend's hands clasping pebbles from a Greek beach, I pronounced myself a "summer person." I did so with the awareness that being Greek and being a "summer person" was, practically, a tautology, but I declared myself one with certainty: "Definitely a summer person," I said, and I was off to the water once again.

By late October, as I was pointing my camera up at a tree whose red leaves reminded me of everything I missed about New England autumn, I had changed my mind. "I'm a fall girl," I declared.

Not even for the sake of a writerly analogy can I pretend that by mid-February, as I was trudging through the post-snow slush, I was a full convert to Boston winter. And still, something about the sound of synchronized snow shoveling interrupting the piercing quiet after a heavy snowstorm that resonates with me. Eljiah caught on to how fickle I was with my attachment to seasons and remarked, "You are, apparently, an all-seasons girl. I don't want to hear it. You love summer, and you love fall, and you love winter."

And then there was spring.

I felt it today, that familiar anxiety of spring, as the world was in mid-thaw, snow droplets dripping into gutters. Buds are fighting to burst out of tree branches. The galoshes that felt essential yesterday felt incongruent today. Everyone was drinking iced coffee, even though it was still only 30-something degrees. We were drinking iced coffee because we recognized the kind of undeniable sunlight that inspires, if not requires, iced coffee, even if our fingers were reluctant to crawl out of pockets for long enough to hold on to icy plastic and a straw.

The sound of leaves crunching under boots or of synchronized shoveling or the smell of sunscreen -- those are the associations that have a different effect on me than the advent of spring. It is not that spring lacks the beautiful imagery. Sundresses would be offended if my memory did not celebrate their return, as would lemonade and porches and lemonade on porches. Rather, spring carries a more anxious weight.

I remember the spring when I myself had to thaw. I remember seeing almond blossoms and realizing the depths of my grief.

I remember a spring so full of loss that I did not even realize it happened until it was mid-May and I was sitting on a lawn in three sweaters, sweating next to a picnic basket under the weight of my obliviousness.

I remember another spring so full of questions that I could not yet answer and so full of terror at the uncertainty. I remember the glory of the spring after that when I slowly befriended vulnerability and gently carved out room in the lemonade-on-porches vision for red wine.

I remember a different spring when everything felt distant and remote. I had not had to fight through winter that year; it was another one of those years when I lived in the perpetual summer and darkness of work in conflict zones, whether due to calling a desert my home or the Equator. Perhaps spring felt less of a triumph when I did not have to sit through the short afternoons of a February or the slush of a December Wednesday; perhaps that is why everything felt unattainable that one spring.

Spring catches me by surprise. I can feel fall coming and ease into it. I can taste the crisper breeze, the bluer skies, the pashminas giving way to cardigans giving way to jackets with hoods. Winter sashays in slowly too, with the increasingly frothier beverages, with one neighbor lighting her fireplace and then another and then the whole neighborhood smells of fireplaces and snowflakes. Spring bursts out of trees and emerges from under layers of clothing with a speed that finds me unprepared each time. There is a bird chirping outside my window while the snow melts, and I find myself begging for a bit more time under the heavy covers to reflect, to put the pieces in order, to stave off the grief, uncertainty, loss, or fear of the above, to be ready for spring, just-this-once.

Therein lies my discomfort: There is something disquieting about feeling like your emotional state is out of step with that of your universe. The spring break inspired catalogs and commercials tell me it's almost Denim Shorts Season and my favorite candle store no longer stocks "Leaves" or "Vanilla Hazelnut Doughnut" because the shelves are full of "Sunscreen Mist" instead. Ready as my legs are for the caress of sundresses on bare knees, my heart needs more time to match the collective exhilaration. So allow me to linger here a bit longer, under the weight of a panda hat and a knit scarf and in the company of a foamy chai latte -- hot, strawless. Let me hide a little longer until I am ready to face the blossoms. And, should I ever feel compelled to point a camera at said blossoms and exclaim anything, you will know that it will likely be another declaration of being a girl of the seasons.