There is no more beautiful time of year than spring, when nature is transfused, resuscitated from what, for so long, looked shrivelled and dead. And we get a shot of energy too at this time of year; we are renewed and ready to go. The turn of the year is familiar and comforting and it beckons for to us to begin. But this year’s starter gun has misfired, all runners have been disqualified, and there’s no beginning at all. All participation cancelled. It is painful because cycles bring stability to our lives: start/stop; birth/death; day/night; winter/spring; crescendo/diminuendo. These are patterns we understand in our core and we need the ups and the downs for us to return to our centre.
Coming into spring we have been coiled and ready to go, our energy gathered through the winter, the darkness expelled, and now that the light has come all of the natural zest and momentum we have gathered is suddenly restrained. It feels wrong to still be waiting as the days lengthen and the heat rises. We’re becoming like greyhounds left too long in the box. We want to be part of nature’s beginning, but nature has shackled us in the same way that we, for so long, had shackled it.
Under normal circumstances my days are unremarkable, they are not packed or event-filled and so, at the start of all this, I thought I would feel little change. I was wrong. It feels a lot different. There is a new rhythm and cycle to the hours. There is a fluidity to days that pass both slowly and quickly, and each week the ripples of discovery seem to move inwards rather than outwards as those things we focus on become closer and more immediate. We become fixated with details we previously passed over. The return of the grey heron to Dunsapie Lough. The baby that can pull himself up on the laundry basket. The battle of the slugs on the runner beans. The profound satisfaction of power-hosing the driveway. The conundrum of the man walking the beach in his pyjamas and playing the guitar. We recycle news, recounting conversations we’ve had with others as part of the next conversation. And perhaps we are more patient listeners with more space to take in the small things.
Evening: that’s the danger time for me, when I know I can feel a little frayed and the small things sparkle less. This is when I can annoy myself with the oldest mantra of all time: This too will pass. ‘Yes, but when?’ one voice asks the other, to which I simply repeat the mantra. And I know by morning I will feel less frustrated and curtailed and wake with a seed of possibility and a plan, however small, to take me through the day.
I’m afraid I can’t tell you the context in which he said this, but back when life was as it used to be, I read an essay by Seamus Heaney in the Scottish Poetry Library and wrote down a piece of it as it seemed important to me. And now it is. He said this: ‘Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others.’
Today I will begin again, get started and keep going and I will make each day matter and feel different. The poets told us so, and they know.
Begin, Brendan Kennelly
Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing through with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.