I never appreciated change until I lived in this house in the spring.
Here, out of the second story window of what serves as The Office, is a tree. I don't know exactly what kind of tree it is—some kind of pear, a neighbor told me. Seems about right—it excretes some kind of small, fruit-like thing onto the driveway. I'll pay better attention to the leaves this season and identify it.
What I've noticed, that I've never noticed before, is that subtle, constant change from winter to spring: bare branch, bud, flower, leaf.
Like many, many things in life, I feel like I'm behind the curve here. Somehow spring, as the engine that changes the earth, every year as it unlocks itself from its deep freeze, hasn't ever woken me up before. (This is its own essay, but spring is, as far as I can tell: (a) time for track and field, and (b) time to come back to school from winter break.) Here I am looking out of this window watching it—noticing it—for the first time.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Bud. Flower. Flower. Flower. Leaf.
Maybe it's simply that it's so common, so obvious, that I can't remember ever having noticed it before. Maybe it's just that I haven't had the change happen right there, so close it can be touched, seen so frequently it can be held. Again with the obvious: the change is so constant and subtle and regular and understood and expected, and yet so surprising and unexpected.
The primary question in this moment should be: how might we each play our part in bringing this pandemic to an end? But it is a moment too, for reflection, on the future. Who do we want to be, when we emerge from the worst of this? What do we want our organizations to stand for? These are questions of strategy—of what it means to win.Jennifer Riel, How to Think About Long-Term Strategy When You Can Barely See Past Tomorrow, IDEO Journal (2020-04-02)
I think that's important: who do we want to be when we emerge from the worst of this?
It's easy to get lost in the idea of hunkering down forever. Everything—or at least that small subset of everything that we experience now—feels like a tree being felled, waiting for the cut that topples it over. Rasp. Rasp. Rasp. Detach. And then the slow-motion fall.
But it ends. With skill (notch the tree in the direction of the fall) and luck (mind the crosswind gust) the fall goes at least roughly where you think it will go, and then you start again from there.
When do you want to begin to start again? Before the fall or after the fall?
If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996)
More on this later, I think. But just the idea for now. Fall... intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously...
Who are we when we rise?
The color-patches of vision part, shift, and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision, and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatter. This second of shattering is an augenblick, a particular configuration, a slant of light shot in the open eye. Goethe's Faust risks all if he should cry to the moment, the augenblick, "Verweile doch!" "Last forever!" Who hasn't prayed that prayer? But the augenblick isn't going to verweile. You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless.Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)
Once more with the tree.
I thought the white flowers were going to be the best part. Looking around the neighborhood from the same window, there were yellows and oranges and pinks and so on—pick the color that best represented your mood, your dreams.
But it wasn't the best part.
The best part is the green erupting from the core of the tree, leaf by leaf, the base of a flame, burning upwards through the flowers, slow by moment but fast all the same, changing changing changing.