It is spring. Lovely, soft, unpredictable spring. The Grosbeaks came back only yesterday, even though the Stellar’s Jays have managed to hatch and fledge a whole brood of black-capped miscreants already. The young Jays take turns tipping the edge of the bird feeder and squawking at me through the window. With my characteristic unreasonableness, I adore them.
Spring often feels like a mere blink of petal and color but this year it has slowed down. I’ve noticed things I’ve never seen before, like the gradual transition from catkin to helicopter on the maple trees, and the daily transporting of sticks and debris by the hawk couple, the incremental brightening of the days.
Awhile ago, I broke my smart phone. The days right after were quiet, unusually efficient. I found myself entering the same peaceful, zen-like state I remember from the pre-internet era when we didn’t own a television set. It was restful. I began to have ideas about never fixing the phone, about a life totally disconnected. But eventually, reason, and the need to text my family, won out. I took it to the repair shop and handed it over. While I waited for an estimate in the chilly shop, I fantasized that the phone was beyond repair, that the middle-aged man with the Dwight Schrute-shirt was going to come back out from behind the curtain looking downtrodden and tell me “I’m terribly sorry, there was nothing we could do…”and I’d be free, truly free. Liberation! But the curtain parted and my phone emerged in the palm of the smiling repairman, and I knew it wasn’t to be. $10 later I was out the door with a fully functioning phone. It felt heavy in my purse, and loud, though I hadn’t even turned it on yet. I sat in the parking lot and thought for awhile. The decision wasn’t hard. I turned on the phone, went to the settings and started deleting apps. When I was done, I had dumbed my phone down to phone, text, camera and a photo editor. Everything else was gone.
That was back in March, before the equinox. Spring has unfolded for me in its own space since then, unphotographed, recorded only in my memory and in the few lines I jot down in my journal. I have watched the rhubarb grow from a wrinkled knob into its open-armed beauty, day by slow day, and never mourned the lack of telling.
Awhile back I read a book of essays on making a simple life. One woman wrote that she and her husband had given up the radio (they’d been rid of the TV for a long time.) “For over a year now we’ve lived without voices in our home save those of the real, live people who live here or those of visiting friends.” She does not feel lonely, she claims. Rather, she has learned to love silence, and the music of her own world. Just now the breeze is blowing through new leaves and the ducks are chattering about some disturbance up on the pasture. Chopin is playing on the stereo. The rocker I am sitting in creaks patiently.
What I’ve noticed most is the absence of strain. No anxiety, no anger or irritation, no feeling of missing out. I used to be so full of ideas that I didn’t know how to start. Every day my mind filled up with more and more until I was bloated and unable to move. I feel slimmed down now, clear-headed. The things I am responsible for are manageable and I have space to deal with them. Alone with my thoughts, I can breathe. “The silence I was always compelled to fill up has become beautiful to me…” says the woman with no radio.
Says the woman with no smart phone.