False Spring

We are on the cusp of something. The weather outside says so with its mellow almost-warmth, the green grass coaxed out of latency, buds starting to form on trees that should be dormant. At an hour that should be frosty, birds are already singing to the just-risen sun, and the sky reveals a careless blue. This could be March, that month of dramatic change, time to think of planting things, of growing. 

I am outside in a sweatshirt, repairing a fence, snuggling our animals, letting my lungs fill with this peaceful morning. I putter and delay, finding projects to occupy my attention, holding tight to this moment.

When I return indoors, the newspaper screams of painful reality: sedition, pandemic, security, racism. It reminds me of the fortune I woke to: I am vaccinated but the world is not. I have space around me but the world does not. I have freedoms that much of the world does not. 

We talk instead of things to do: roses to cut back, mowing to be done, painting, cleaning. Thinking. I have found myself more introvert than not, these last ten months of pandemic. Helpless to change the political pageantry, the degradation of national discourse, the anti-intellectual movement that has resulted in needless violence, I have raised chickens, adopted burros, and started writing. I’m hibernating. 

Even here, even in my restricted social movements and foolish optimism that change of season will change the world outside, I have been wounded. Three times in the last four years I have been accosted by angry, young, white men. One chased me down in my car when I surprised him by coming off a freeway ramp he was turning in front of, raving as though I had done something wrong. One was mad that his monster truck didn’t fit behind my car at the gas pump and demanded I stop pumping to move my car forward. One was in line behind us at the ski lift, cocksure that we should not be in that line as a group. All three times I had my kids with me, witnesses to the vitriol directed at me, the threatening body posturing of young men who felt owed something. 

Each time, when I stopped trembling, I tried to make it teachable, begged my sons never to use their bodies in that manner to threaten women. They will be tall white men. This is not what I want them to learn. 

For all that the breeze barely tussles the top branches of trees outside, whispering of warmth and comfort ahead, I know winter is not over. Today I give in to the temptation to find comfort, to let sun touch my skin and dig my fingers into the dirt and try to create order. But even if there is no violence at the inauguration this week; even if we vaccinate five times as many people as we expect to; even if a new administration reflects the diversity of this country as it is today, our winter is not over.

Inspecting the yard, I notice that our lemon tree has grown spines and dropped its leaves, harmed by one hard frost. Some damage cannot be undone. 

Claire Unis
Auburn, California

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1 thought on “False Spring”

  1. I am so sorry that you had these experiences -and that they are so common that I am not really surprised anymore. Thank you for your writing and realistic take on what we can and cannot hope for in the future.

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