By Michael Milton
“…Oh, how this spring of love resembleth
the uncertain glory of an April day
Which now shows all beauty of the Sun
and by and by a cloud takes all away…”
~ Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona
Up and down the streets of our Brooklyn neighborhoods and in our parks–perhaps even out on some of our kitchen window sills, Spring is exploding. Such a fragile and fleeting time. Already, the waxy pink-white blossoms of the magnolias are dropping, followed close by the still tightly bound green leaves which will soon unfurl and sail us bravely into summer. Blink, and you miss the whole show. Poetically, spring is often about rebirth, renewal, the victory of light over dark, life over death.
For some reason over the past year or so, the passing of each season has brought with it for me a kind of melancholy. I find I can’t quite turn myself over completely to the beauties of each; somewhere deep within me I am hearing more and more distinctly the teeth of my internal time piece falling into an ever smaller cogwheel, ticking off the passage of something irretrievable.
I battle with myself to have thus sidelined myself from life. Irretrievable and inevitable. “Burn fully and to ash in each and every moment,” I counsel myself.
I began to worry about death when I was 9 or 10 years old. It was shortly after I was introduced in school to the idea of “infinity.” At night, lying in bed, I would ponder this….endlessness. And I wondered about our small slice of human life somewhere in the midst of the dazzling concept of a universe without end.
“WE end,” I thought. “WE die.” Infinity—to my young mind–held within its embrace certain discrepancies.
I’ve had two near death experiences in my life, two “springs” if you will, snatched from medically predicted and untimely “winters.” I can’t honestly say that I can report to you that I saw the light, or was greeted by happy family members. Yet, there was a warmth I brought back from the time I lay unconscious during surgery, a warmth which, I believe, provided me with a kind of strength, as my own renewal began through long and painful periods of recovery.
Spring, summer, autumn and winter have been predictable anchors for hundreds of generations of man, one of nature’s few guarantees–with some cataclysmic exceptions. As we limp into the 21st century and the rhythm of our ecological life is jarred and jimmied by many forces, we hopefully have time to make corrections, to man our own “renewal” before “….by and by, a cloud takes all away.”
Still, infinity remains; however you perceive of it, infinity–the Tao of physics, sublime, inescapable, meaningful and meaningless–remains. In whatever way I digested that concept as a child, IT clearly has no trouble co-existing with human lightning fast appearances and disappearances from this grand dream.
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
What have I done
summoning you here
at so late an hour,
I see you, shadows crouching
near the fading embers of this fire.
Did I really conjure you here?
Or was it me who has only now returned to this crackle and pop–
gone for years while you patiently tended our dimming incandescence
and finally summoned ME home?
What have I done?
The big day approaches apace,
our long anticipated family reunion!
Twice, I’ve been bumped from my flight home,
and, last minute, had to cancel my place
at our ever growing gatherings.
“Pot luck,” reads the invitation, each of us asked to bring only what is essential.
Flight ought to feel more natural to me by now.
I can almost convince myself
that once this journey is over, I’ll have a rollicking good time,
hopeful that retracing those many miles will peel my past away,
leaving only the merry boom
of my uncle’s full throated laugh,
and the infinite softness
behind the blue grey granite
of my mother’s eyes.