It is February 15 in Michigan. It is not a bright day. The dormant grass lies open to the cold wind with no fresh snow to hide its listless green. Black tree limbs lace the gray sky. The sod of our yard is frozen ten inches deep, and except for the bitter wind, everything appears still and lifeless.
But when I imagine the first warm breeze of spring, I can sense the change that will soon come. In a few months, the warmth I feel here in my house I will feel outside. Spring will take over and the grass will again require mowing. And I know that spring will be followed by the heat of summer, and walks and bicycle rides in the fresh air. Nothing in life is ever stuck. It is the rule of succession.
This year a second and unfamiliar coldness has joined the routine cold of February—and it comes from the highest office in our country: in pronouncements that refugees from war should be turned away and that we should wall out our neighbors. It comes in lies so brazen and detached from reality that we seem transported to Orwell’s world of “newspeak,” where critics are silenced and “truth” is only what the government says.
But just as February does not make a year, one month of terrible actions does not equal a year of the same. And a year of foul rule does not constitute a presidential term. The present climate will change, if not in a year, then likely in four. People are not as oblivious as we might think, and democracy has survived worse. The political wilderness is usually succeeded by a political rebirth.
And this February is hard for another and more personal reason. Five wonderful men who entered my life over the years, have left. They are dead. There is no other word sufficient to describe the cold permanence of their departure. Every one of them had an artfulness and energy that held me in awe. My life feels permanently shrunken by the loss of them.
But the character and the voice of each man—so peculiar, so deep, so mingled now with my own thought—stays on. At the least, I can slightly assuage the terrible loss felt by those closest to them. And perhaps better, I can carry some of their character in my character. The good that they embodied can surely succeed them in us who knew them.
So, today, in the middle of this especially cold February, I find serenity in knowing that no period of time—no matter how bitter—is a fixed reality. Life’s reality is not captured in this month, just as life is not captured in a photograph—for life does not stand still. Life’s one constant is change—change brought by the movement of time.
Just as spring succeeds winter;
just as sorrow succeeds joy and joy in time succeeds sorrow;
and just as one generation succeeds the last, and is in turn succeeded by the next–
life eludes our insistence on framing it—in a year, in a month, or even in a moment.
For life is really not a succession of moments—not really a succession at all. It is one, single, unstopping flow—a flow in which each moment is relentlessly new.
You might also enjoy these:
“Life: So Mundane – So Elegant,” an article
“Time Brings All Things Back,” a poem
“In Reality, the Sun Neither Rises Nor Sets…” a Thought
“Omen for a Gray March Day,” a short poem