Springing Time

“Would you like a refund? You know…this is a hard medium…and you really don’t have any talent here.”

Years ago I signed up for and started a watercolor class. I’ve always wanted to learn to paint, and I enjoy the softness of watercolor. But, two classes in, the refund offer – in front of the whole class – was more than I could bear. I took my money and ran.

This past July a moment happened in my poetic life that had the same effect – I ran away. I quit. I stopped.

Well, it’s spring, and spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, according to the ancients. In the 14th century this time of year was called Springing Time, in reference to the plants springing from the ground. A new round of life. Another chance.

I drive a great deal in my job – all over Eastern Iowa. Because podcasts and music only do so much, I enjoy looking at other drivers. And, you know what I see? Bovine stares. Boredom. (They’re probably listening to local radio stations – you do know they still regularly play Duran Duran and Paula Abdul, right?) But, the stare. It’s death. It’s the I-have-to-do-this-to-make-money-to-pay-the-bills-to-go-to-the-grocery-store-to-buy-food-to-make-even-though-I-do-not-want-it-and-those-ingrates-at-home-will-complain stare. You know the one? It’s the stare that tells you about a life constructed without enough thought; legos, mortgage payments, and repeat episodes of shows that weren’t that good the first time around.

Well, folks – it’s spring time. And, I know it’s spring time because the schools I work with are beginning reflections on this past year and planning for next year. I know it’s spring time because daylight savings time has made early morning rising a chore. I know it’s spring time because I slept with the windows open last night.  I know it’s spring time because even here in Iowa we have a few daffodils up. I know it’s spring time because it’s the end of Masters’ Week in Augusta.

And, since it is spring time, perhaps it’s time to cast off the resignations of the past; time to find a non-bovine facial expression. Maybe you have some springing you’d like to do? I don’t mean the things you see as the usual requirements of spring; I mean some activity, hobby, habit of mind that you’d like to grow into?

Let’s go obvious: flowers. Have you always wanted some great flowers around the house or in a pot on the deck? Get them! Plant them! Start some seeds so you have cucumbers in July. Cleaning out the garage? Well, okay. Probably needs to be done, if it’s anything like mine.

How about an activity? It’s cliche to say it’s time for running or biking. It could be that. Or go for the less obvious: learn to play Call of Duty with your son; figure out how to bake bread from scratch; choose a new sex technique to try with your lover. Maybe something as simple as smiling more – even and especially in line at the grocery store?

Really, it can be anything. It’s time to spring; whatever your thing is, get out from behind the bovine stare, and embrace the spring. Sign up for the class. Put the festivals on your calendar, and actually go to them. Scoot down the the lake and rent a kayak. Adopt the pet you’ve always wanted; learn a yard game; read more; get out your old guitar and tune up; take painting lessons.

It really doesn’t matter – there are myriads of things you can try or do no matter where you live. Open up your world and jump in!

And, no matter what you choose to spring into, don’t let anyone try to force a refund on you.


You Can’t Do That

You cannot be anything you want.

I learned this decades ago when my mother pointed out to my twelve year-old self that I did not have the aptitude nor the body to be a ballerina. Always practical, mom went on to say that there were lots of other things I could do, but dancing, while fun, would never pay the bills for me.

Fast forward five years: I wanted to be a doctor. Then, I took anatomy in high school. Nope. That fetal pig did me in, not to mention all the earthworms and frogs.

Fast forward another five years: Professor Weber asked me to apply for a teaching scholarship that I had already twice been rejected from. I was in the midst of interviewing with the government; I wanted to be a spy. The army even called me regularly to try to recruit my Russian speaking self.

Fast forward five more years: I was a Russian teacher outside of Chicago with one kid, two dogs, a cat, and a stay-at-home husband.

How did this happen?

Seriously, how the fuck did that happen?

Any number of explanations might be offered, but that’s really not the point.

As the requisite spring recitals, graduations, and weddings point us into the future and cause us to reminisce, we might do well to remember that despite all of our planning, we don’t really know what we are doing. Plans get cancelled; the world changes; curve balls get thrown; and there are hairpin turns in almost every road.

images-2We can grow into our lives if we are fair-minded, accepting, and supportive. Oh sure, there are hundreds of other qualities you might suggest to add to this list, but I’ll say: if you can be fair-minded, accepting, and supportive to yourself and others, you might not become anything you want. But, those are qualities that can take you from the dance studio to the operating room to the farm yard to the boardroom to the classroom.

You might not be able to become anything you want, but you can become who you want to be.

Sisyphus Freed

The last day of February was one of those rare early spring days when the warm air swirls in, refreshing the previously frozen classrooms. It was Monday morning and walking down the hallway, Joe Henderson realized he had been here since 1985. Thirty years of freshman compositions, Fahrenheit 451, and faculty meetings: those god-awful faculty meetings. Ups and downs of decades of pop culture and community gossip don’t stop at the school doors; they enter, magnified and dramatized for all to partake: the jello salad everyone wants to avoid but ends up taking a spoonful of anyway. His classroom was at the end of the hallway; where, despite building expansion and improvement, it had always been – next to the emergency exit.

Three steps away from the classroom, something snapped. He kept walking.

The door swung open and the dropped photocopies spun a whirlwind around him; the alarm began wailing.

Mr. H was done.


man sunset


That Day

It was that day when I came home from school and there were 34 robins in just our yard. I know because I stood out there and counted them. There were more everywhere. In the lot across the street. On the Michaelsons’ roof.  And it was February first. You’re not supposed to see robins until spring is around the corner. I mean, spring is not around the corner in February. Not where I’m from. All the stuff Aunt Glenda told us about the robins was good. You know, hope, happiness, bright futures – all that stuff. I dunno. Maybe that’s how some people see robins. All I know is the day the robins were out is the day I opened the door and saw grandma on the floor and the cat chewing at her nose.


flock of robins