Notice the title has changed; not above tree line, but above the trees. David and I got up Sunday morning with the intention of driving to the White Mountains to hike Mt. Pierce, fulfilling our New Year’s intention for April. But after a busy week of travel for family visits, and an upcoming week of more travel, we didn’t want to spend a good part of the day in the car. This intention was meant to help us make time to do something we enjoy, not to turn into a chore or an obligation. We already have plenty of those.
So we climbed Mt. Major, a small mountain south of Lake Winnipesaukee, bare granite at the top because of a long-ago fire, with beautiful views across the lake to the above tree line ridges of the White Mountains to the north. We decided getting above the trees would do just fine, and it did.
We were home in time to sit in the sun, out of the wind, and let some of the new season sink in. We needed that.
Yesterday David and I spent a few hours in Manhattan. We dropped Emilio off at daycare, took the train to Penn Station, and went for a walk — 7 miles, through the Greenmarket at Union Square, then down the Bowery through Chinatown and Little Italy and back up Broadway with a two-bags-full stop at the Strand Book Store. As we walked, I thought about our plans to spend today in Boston, ending with my reading with other WordTech poets at Boston Public Library. Then on Wednesday we had plans to spend time with Melia in Portland. Three days, three cities. Sweet.
Except yesterday ended in sorrow and dismay, and today was not what we planned, not what thousands of people in the Boston area had planned. There is so much sadness in the world due to natural causes, why does anyone do anything to add to it? I know that sounds ridiculously naive and innocent, but it’s a time of year that generates sadness as I move into the zone where I remember everything that was happening from seven years ago, as Eric’s grave illness was diagnosed and he got sicker and sicker. That grief gets layered with other losses and struggles of people I love dearly who are very close to me, people I care about who are a little further out, people I don’t know well but whose difficulties cross my path and send in ripples of sadness, people I don’t know at all, but whose losses happen in the public sphere and so we all know about it almost instantly and feel a flash of their pain. As we did yesterday.
Tomorrow we’re still planning to go to Portland, so it will be two cities in three days, with a swim through sorrow in between.
Traveling south this time of year, into a spring far advanced past its current muddy incarnation in New Hampshire, is a treat. David and I were in Knoxville, TN this weekend, to be the support team for Sam and his friend Mike as ran they ran their first marathon. Besides the pleasure of being with two smart, strong and very funny young men as they pushed their bodies pretty much to the breaking point, there was the delight of sunny days with temperatures in the 70s, and lines of dogwood trees showing off their white blossoms against blue skies. I’m ready for more of that, right here at home.
As we crossed a street on Saturday evening, littered with fallen petals, I thought of this poem, from years ago, realizing I will probably never stop noticing how trees shape-shift through the seasons.
What is the weight of a flower, the weight
of a tree bearing such blatant intent?
Every mass of blossoms, snow cloud,
exclamation, exuberance of fruit
to come, has a future, a history,
a moment of abandon, petals
splayed wide, drawing pollen to the core.
The wilt and decay towards apple
is hidden in new leaves, riches spent,
riches returned, petals salting the grass.
Alison and I did a last ski of the season on Sunday. Okay, maybe it wasn’t classic skiing. It was more like walking in the woods with skis attached to our boots, including literally walking in big ski steps across the open parts of the trail. At the height of our climb up Tarleton Road, just below the steep pitch to Neville Peak, there was still a good bit of snow, though it was very soft and wet.
But further down the trail, there were many spots where the snow was gone, so we skied around grass and sticks and rocks. At one point coming down a hill, one of my skis was gliding through the wet snow, the other slipping through a mud puddle. But we were skiing, celebrating a great season of snow.
A good ski year is always a reason to be grateful, and this year I’m also grateful on behalf of someone I love who has most likely had her last ski, period. As in she is so sick she most likely won’t be here during ski season next year, and if she is, she won’t be skiing. She could barely ski this year. I carry that reality with me, grateful for what I have and what I can do, and holding on to awareness of those I bring with me, those who can’t be out kicking and gliding through the frozen world themselves.