Monday, March 3, 2008

Simple And Free

This warming time of the year always brings its own special memories. A certain bird song can put me back in the sandbox in Don Miller's back yard when we were little kids. If I smell last year's dried grass, not yet replaced by new growth, I am reminded of my Aunt Ruth's farm, which was on land not at all far from here but is now well past needing Uncle Jim's tractor. When I went to college in Kentucky, one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see in the springtime, I played hookey from school every first pretty day of the year. I would get in my car, open all the windows, and just drive. It took very little time to get out into the countryside and feel rebirth gently finding its way into me. The sound of the car radio would have been an unwelcome distractraction on those drives. I was completely content just bathing in the warm breezes, enjoying the fragrance of the newgrown bluegrass, and feeling totally at one with the gorgeousness I was part of. From where we live now, it takes longer to get out of the city. But on our drives to Delaware, once we cross the Chesapeake Bay and reach the farmland of the Eastern Shore, the same feelings return, and they are just as strong as they were in Kentucky.

Back in my early teens, before I won the "you have to go to church" argument with my parents, one of my favorite things to do was to walk the mile or so home from church on a pretty Sunday morning. I ambled, happy to be completely alone, savoring the experience of spring: the warmth, not yet DC-oppressive, the birdsong, the light breeze. You entered our street at the top of a hill and headed down towards our house, at the bottom. The hilltop gave a panoramic view of the street, a Rockwell painting come to life. All the colors were brilliant, the grass a shade of emerald but still neat, not yet needing to be mowed. The houses, regardless of their age, seemed to be in mint condition. Even at that young age I remember feeling lucky to be alive and thankful for the contentment.

Those memories of happiness springing from life's simplest gifts are easy to conjure but can be hard to re-create as we age. Adult life has its more sophisticated pleasures, to be sure. But learning of the joy to be found in the things life gives me free of charge every day was a valuable lesson indeed.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful walk down memory lane. I love that a simple sound or sight can trigger such happy memories. For me, the sight of the first lightning bugs and I'm 13, sitting on a quilt in the backyard telling ghost stories with my friends. And a certain kind of breeze reminds me of sitting on the porch at Emerald Isle listening to the gulls without a care in the world (me, not the gulls).

Here's to happy times.

Linda in Chapel Hill

Ralph said...

Hear, hear, Linda! And you there in Chapel Hill must be enjoying the same weather as I am today, only more so!

Anonymous said...

Favorite season is often a favorite question. For a long time, my answer was Spring. As a student, Spring signals the nearing of the school year, graduation, warm weather - lazy days dreaming while teachers tried to keep our attention.

In those days,Fall represented the beginning of school. Often I was ready by after Christmas break, I often started to count time off until vacation.

Yet, Ralph, your post triggered some strong memories and as I looked out my balcony door and opened it (63 degrees here in SE PA)I found myself yearning for Spring to arrive. The trees are bare in the complex's backyard and I can see way down at the property line the tops of a factory. Once the leaves arrive, I will no longer see that landscape.

By the end of July, my yearning will turn to wanting cooler evenings, wearing a sweater and wishing for a colorful Fall.

Linda

Ralph said...

Linda, you're so right about longing for the cooler weather along about July or August. When the cold starts to usher itself in and the days get shorter, I start looking to the pleasures of winter. Coziness. Heavier, more substantial foods that are fun to cook. Then that gets old and I get anxious for the warm days again. As I write this I realize that I really do enjoy and am grateful for the change of seasons!

Zoey & Me said...

I used to walk the Jefferson Memorial ground during cherry blossomtime. The fragrance of the flowers overwhemed me. What I miss most about DC. That and hanging out in November at the Sailing Marina, the across from National airport, watch the sail boats, watch the planes land. That little diner there was where I had my real first summer job.

Ralph said...

Ah, the cherry blossoms. I must admit I arrived to them late, only after I came back to DC as a grownup stranger. Living out in Virginia I guess my parents never felt like fighting the crowds and the traffic to come in and see them. There was a time at the Peace Corps, that wonderful humane bit of the federal bureaucracy, when the top brass would give everyone a few minutes extra for lunch so they could walk down to the cherry blossoms and enjoy them. That was actually my introduction to them--a great one, sharing them with friends. Thanks for that memory.

Anonymous said...

Ralph,

One reason I stay in the region that I do is for the four seasons. Actually, I think it was last year that we had a "real" Spring.

We had thought of relo'ing to Arizona. I went out to pioneer the way on Memorial Day Weekend. When I arrived it was 90 degrees and I thought wow... this is really as promised, a comfortable dry heat. The next day it was 115 degrees and I learned the truth of frying an egg in the parking lot. Air-conditioning had to run 24/7. Temps didn't drop until after 5 AM and not in anyway significantly.

As I didn't adjust to the time change and kept on as I did on the East Coast, I found myself watching tv at odd hours and they frequently ran the temp and swamp cooler temps.

You can only imagine my happiness at returning. I don't know of an adult that day at Newark Airport that sighed relief and much anticipation to see trees and green again.

Linda

Kat said...

Ralph,
Here on the Cape spring seems to skirt right by us. One day it is raw and cold and the next day it's summer.

It's the fall which is glorious, which gives me a joy right through to my toes. The days are warm, the sky so blue it hurts your eyes and the sun warm and welcoming.

Yup, here on old Cape Cod, I'll take the fall.

Ralph said...

Sorry you miss the beauties of a gradual warming, but the fall sounds like it makes up for it! I can just imagine the color in the trees......