Spring is a battlefield

A few weeks ago without much fanfare, the weather suddenly turned warm and gorgeous.  Really–overnight the crocus appeared. Then the daffodils and the tulips started rising up and dotting the brown landscape with their colorful petals.  As the heralds of spring, they were full of hope and beckoned everyone outside. The willows revealed their fuzz and the magnolia buds began to show.  I sat outside in the sunshine on an afternoon or two, even had an ice cream, and thought, “Well, that was easy.”

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But in the back of my mind I kept hearing a phrase that we learned in childhood about spring– “Spring comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” I kept mulling it over and thinking, “Well, maybe not, maybe that was just a childhood poem.” I mean–this spring seemed to appear like butter, smooth and natural, like it was no trouble at all.

Then very suddenly on March 31st we had terrible weather– rain and clouds and cold again.  Forget about light sweaters and jackets–back into the winter coat and boots.  As the week continued, the weather only worsened.  “What is this?” I exclaimed on my way to school one morning. Thorsten replied,”We have a word for this kind of weather.”  I waited for it…”April,” he said.  “Really?” I thought, unenchanted, “Hmmm.”

And so it went on–the ghost of what used to be winter seeming to battle with the spirit of what will eventually become summer.  For days there were a few minutes of sunshine, followed by rain, then sun again, after that high winds and sudden hail.  In the afternoons there was snow and one day there was even thunder and lightening.

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I thought about the childhood phrase again, “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” It sure seemed accurate now.

The battle raged on for at least a week, but then finally– timidly, and with a bit more care–Spring was born. Now, the real welcoming parties have appeared, Quince, Forsythia, Cherries, Plum and Sloe. When the sun shines, the bees are buzzing around the willows. Thorsten even got a mosquito bite!

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And so I thought again about this concept of spring. And I realized for the millionth time that nothing in life is static.

Spring is not object and it is not a destination. It’s more like the time during the year when the process of becoming is made tangible and visible. It is continually developing and it changes everyday. It happens quickly, and maybe that is why it’s so noticeable. Each year, the trees and flowers push, fight, reach and strain to open their buds.

This realization inspired me when recently I was experiencing a struggle of my own.  I’m sure it was a combination of factors that created a low mood one day. But I think it’s really important to express that moving to a foreign country is not all Bratwurst and beer and flowers and fun. There are days when it does not feel like a great adventure. It can be awkward and tiring and it can make you forget yourself. Often its a chance to see what you are not good at. It can be boring even though it’s hard and a little alienating to constantly be confronted with all that you don’t know.  These days I have created a life that includes doing lots of things I’m not an expert at. My careers and degrees and studies up to this point did not really prepare me to navigate these waters. Sometimes I am shocked at my decision to become an immigrant and strip myself of the familiar. “What was I thinking?” I say to myself.

Luckily, Thorsten says that my standards are too high and that being an expert is not the most important thing. (When he says that I’m usually in the heat of the struggle and I don’t listen. I love being an expert at things and having no expertise to cling to does not make me a great listener in these moments.)

But truly, being perfect is not the most important thing about becoming something because it implies that you’ve already become, that you have arrived.  Since we just spent the last 700 words talking about the fact that Spring is ever a process and not a destination, I guess it’s time to admit that the same goes for life.

In calmer moments, I see that human development is like the battle for spring. You start something and you’re hopeful and sometimes it seems easy, but then you fall and you fail and winter comes back. Luckily, some small crocus or a daffodil pops its cheery head up, maybe in the form of a stranger smiling at you. Maybe someone asks you a question about a subject you really know something about. The the battle begins to wane, you let the little things mean something so that you are able to start again. Eventually your own springtime is born out of that struggle.

I used to tell my ballet students that the little chick must struggle to find its way out of the egg, that the butterfly must nearly exhaust itself to come out of the cocoon, that without that work, both would surely die, having never developed the stamina for life. I told my little ones these stories again and again when the ballet steps were to hard or they didn’t want to keep stretching their legs or hold their poses–And they believed me and they kept going.  Now I guess its time to believe myself.

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