Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On The April Wind

I cannot tell you what I mean to say about this April wind, the way the gentle current of air hits my arm as a sensation so welcome I can only sigh and pull off my jacket and flail about likening it to an unforgettable taste.  Or a cool drink of just the right thing.  Or a second skin. Or a caress.

The spring finds me hungry for this taste, or thirsty for this drink, or aching for this touch.   Where are the words to say that, though the winter here has been mild and fleeting, I find myself starving for the April wind on my arms?  I open the back door and step out on the patio, and I let the spring air weave its wordless magic on my winter worn body.

When I was a child, my mother used to make a fluffy, white confection called Divinity every year at Christmas, and it remains for me a taste I cannot describe in any way other than to say that it is sweet and it tastes like itself.  Whenever I read about the White Witch tempting Edmund with something called Turkish Delights, I always tasted Divinity in my mind.  For whatever reason, I equated the taste I could not describe with that cryptic, enchanted food I could not imagine.  And in that way, both foods became imbued with each other's magic on the landscape of my young imagination.  My mother's Divinity was enchanted, and Turkish Delight was a treat that could not be described.  Perhaps both just different names for the same magic.

And, though I can't give it adequate words, the same magic is in this wind.  Something wonderful connected to something else wonderful that makes both retain the spirit of the other. 

I've known more springs here than anywhere else I have lived, and with each passing year, my heart is more and more deeply rooted in the patterns of this place.  When I spin the romance of nostalgia, when I dream back to seasons past, though for many years I smelled the Santa Anna winds or the salty ocean air or the spicy hint of chimney smoke after the first panhandle snow, these days my memories tend to land me within a fifteen mile radius from my back porch.

Like the rings on a tree, I can count my age by the layers of nostalgia that I sift through each time the seasons change.  And on this wind, this April air I can't quite explain, I relive a hundred nights when I have stood outside in this place that is my adopted home and felt alive, felt awakened from the hibernation of winter.  I remember every time the wind has woken me, every time it has whispered its dream language across the skin of my newly bared arms.

I remember years of watching the plants revive, of watching the dogs start to shed, of watching my sons' legs appear in last year's too-short shorts.  I remember all those nights of eating out on our favorite restaurant patios, licking salt off the edge of a margarita.  I remember festivals in the park, spreading blankets to sit under the trees and slipping off our sandals to keep the corners of the blanket from being caught by this infectious wind.  I remember hikes through the greenbelt when the wind would hit us and cool our faces, and we would all sigh in chorus at the welcome relief of it.

I remember that our first house here had fireflies, and I would sit out on the back porch and watch for the blinking lights that would transport me straight back to my grandparents' Missouri backyard.  I remember the swing we made ourselves that we hung from the 100 year old tree in the front yard and how I was always afraid I would bring the whole branch down if I swung too hard, so I would spin in gentle circles with my toes drawing spiral shapes in the dirt to slow me down.

Last week, the winter sent us one last huff of its raspy breath.  The heater groaned, awakened from its expected hibernation, and coughed the scent of dusty vents throughout the house.  And for that one day, I saw the cold as an insidious invader, pressing an icy forehead against the windows, waiting to take the breath right out of our lungs when we stepped out into the cold air.

When the winter is almost spent is the time I start to believe that somehow, this year, it will never end.  The sunset will always fleece the day, and the nights will be long and dark.  The grass will always be brittle and brown, and the ashy earth will always show through underneath.  I know that summer is coming, and that it will seem as endless as the winter when it arrives, but somehow I forget that first we will have the April wind.

And then that wind comes in, and I feel half a gypsy, remembering a youth in which I thought I would wander the world perching on the steps of famous statues and writing poetry in notebooks with leather covers.  For a moment, I get that old urge to wander.  I have an image, like a flash across my eyes, of a different life I might have lived, a scattered and rootless adventure.  Train seats and suitcases, hostels and museums.

For one quick moment, that April wind spins me off away from my life.  And just as quickly it swirls me around and sets me back down.  It turns out I don't travel the world the way I thought I would, but when that April wind comes, I travel through time, revisiting every spring that watered the roots I have laid down here. 

I close my eyes and revisit the sights of this life, and when I open them I have landed here, just outside the back door of my suburban house, where the wind makes the screens buzz against the window panes along the back of the house and the faint warmth in the air embraces me and sends me fumbling for my words again.  Where my boys are rolling in the grass that has been quietly growing in greener and greener by the day. Where Crape Myrtles are starting to bloom and the strawberry plant has just put out its first fruit of the season.

And I think wow, I didn't even have to click my heels together.


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