The saucer magnolias bloomed in a fleeting, concerted frenzy. It seemed too much beauty to be spent in so short a time, but I did my best to enjoy them. In under a week the petals began to soften and droop, and practically overnight—as quickly as they came—they carpeted the sidewalks, leaving us a last, self-sacrificing gasp of luxury in walking to and fro on their deathbeds. Now the foliage sprouts, and we’re getting the no-nonsense green leaves that will stay. Here and there an ivory petal has escaped the gardener’s zealous rake and sunbathes on the pachysandra. As though to say It happened. I was there. Any nature activity is appreciated in the city, but I wish we weren’t so quick to sweep up the aftermath like we do the shopfronts.
It won’t be my neighborhood much longer. My apartment building was sold recently, and I will move away. I found a new apartment a few miles down the road this week—a new neighborhood, a new routine. I look forward to it, but, as is my way, I spend this month looking back, too. I take a gloaming walk most nights, lifting my eyes up across the boulevard at the jack-o-lantern brownstones, the rich, many-hued autumnal colors. The irregular chimneys strike wild silhouettes against the darkening sky. I love it here, and I suppose that’s a fine way to leave a place. I will come back, I tell myself, if I want. For now there are changes to test out in the new place, and the pruning back and embracing of change opens the way for a potentially grander adventure ahead. Wanderlust back on alert.
When the magnolias bloomed last year they were likely just a backdrop to the daily performance of Snow is Gone that was lightening my steps all over town. Having found Josh Ritter on BBC Scotland, I went out and bought 4 Songs Live, I confess, because it was cheapest. And I like live albums. How to describe it—as though I’d known the words my whole life, as though the driving melody and beat came with key to unlock memories of times and places known and held dear only by me. As though I’d been making front lawn confessions all my life, and some guy next to me finally broke out in song.
Long time comin’ but now the snow is gone meant more to me than the lengthening days. I’d had the darkest, most harrowing winter, but I was healing, and this song stirred up the bits of me coming back alive. It jostled the burden on my shoulders, proving my suspicion that it would move. Last night’s feathers exchanged for new ones? Gladly. For a while I fixated on those two lines, and I could hardly keep from dancing (a little). In public. Like they do in the iPod commercials. I’d get home, turn it up loud, and, heart pounding with the rhythm, I’d jump straight up and down. (Full disclosure: I can dance, I really can; but sometimes it was too much to dance.) And I’d sing.
When the organ hits that high exuberant chord after Josh sings Hear my confession then I’ll go, it’s like that moment when your loved one emerges from the airport terminal, when your bat connects with the ball in sixth-grade coach’s pitch and your heart lurches and says Run!, when you stand before you yourself or someone else without judgment or expectation, and you tell the Truth.