On an April night, I curl up in the warmth of my bed, cocooning myself beneath layers and layers of thick blankets. They still smell of winter. I can scarcely make sense of myself at the moment. But it is spring, after all. The days have started to stretch onwards in light. The birds’ throats tremble with their first songs of the year.
And yet, when the sun does appear, it is deceptive. Our skins flush with its warmth, and our bodies hum with the sudden rush of courage. Tearing off our clothes, we lay ourselves bare, scarcely realizing that the night still falls fast. Our declarations of love, our proclamations of self-knowledge, our pursuits of fame and fortune and foreign lands, yes, these are the blossoms of spring that burst violently from us, seemingly beyond our mere mortal control. Oh, and the thrill of it, to discard the iron gates that rusted beneath the snow.
But that night always falls.
Slight frosts make a glittery sheen on the pavement.
Our skins become gooseflesh.
And then, yes, then: the regrets flood in.
We are suddenly raw and tender with the wounds of exposure.
You see, I now resent my schoolgirl education, the promises of cherry blossoms and lovely landscapes, the springtime deception. Summer’s heat coats the body and mind in a thick and tarry lull, and when passions arise they are not so quickly and brutally cooled. Then autumn arrives, and we slowly re-build our armour, layers upon layers of calm reflection and melancholy. Winter: a quiet numbing. Nothing is expected of us in those cold months.
I now know why it is that “April is the cruellest month,”1 and yes, it is all so clear to me now, why so many choose in this season of brute nakedness to beat themselves with the whips of their own self-deprecation, or worse, to “shuffle off their mortal coils.”2 But the penance of the Lenten season is past. It is over. Once spoken, words cannot be taken back. Once acted upon, our desires must not only be held to account, but allowed to bathe in the cleansing light of our own forgiveness and gentleness, and in the kindness of others. For we, and we alone, are our most persistent and cruel jailors.
So, be it agreed that life does not flourish with the absence of difficulty. If it is not without pain that we bring our children into this world, then so too, must we bear the labours of our own transformation. The alchemy of all life, of all newness, to the very marrow of the elements of which we are composed, is steeped in the strength of vulnerability.
Like copper to tin, like plant to earth, heart to heart.
1. T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land.” 1922.
2. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. Act 3, Scene 1.