The Seasonal Southerner

We got back from Italy just in time for the beautiful spring in Atlanta.  It softened the blow of being back somewhat.  I wonder about spring in Italy – I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I bet it doesn’t hold a candle to spring in Georgia.  The landscape there is perpetually idyllic.  We saw three full seasons and while every season was different, it was all very similar.  There the background is the star.  The topography with its rolling hills and deep valleys.  The sheep grazing and the wild boar roaming.  The vineyards that chameleon their way from brown, to green, to golden.  The ancient hill towns and the convents, monasteries and churches set on hill tops and in valleys.  Here in Atlanta it’s the details that make the the difference.  The small trees, shrubs and flowers that live in the understory and come alive this time of year providing color and focusing your attention on things overlooked other times of the year.

Today was a perfect spring day.  The azaleas have petered out and the dogwoods are now bright green with no white flowers, but everyday there is something new blooming and poking up from the earth.  The sky was a brilliant blue, so deep that it almost looked like storm clouds.  But it was clear with not a cloud in the sky.  As I was sitting on our front porch this afternoon, I looked up at the sky and felt a lightness that I haven’t felt since we’ve been back.  And I remembered feeling that way almost every day in Italy.  So many times I would gaze at the landscape, the expansive vistas, the bigness of Italy.  And I would feel a peacefulness, a connection with the world that was so profound that I felt empowered and energized.  I felt like I could do anything and that nothing could make me sad or depressed or angry.  I felt light.

When we got back to Atlanta we moved into a new house, I went back to work, we drove in Atlanta traffic, we shopped at mediocre grocery stores, we ate at overpriced and sub-par restaurants, and we were back in the routine of life as we know it.  It was winter and cold and rainy and not very pleasant.  Then spring came and made us remember that life is a cycle and we have chances to make ourselves over, to renew.  Spring, with warm temperatures, blue skies, light breezes, and colors that you can’t believe are real.  Spring in Atlanta where you feel like you’ve made it through the cold, dreary winter and this is your reward.  Unmatched beauty.  Incredible details everywhere that only last a few days, a week or two at the most.  Savor them when you see them and let them work their life affirming magic on you.  Spring in Atlanta is a microcosm of beauty.  It’s full of surprises – look behind an old, scraggledy bush and you’ll see a clump of bright pink phlox.  That crooked mailbox post down the street?  Covered in lavender clematis blooms almost the size of dinner plates.

So give me spring in Atlanta, where I can renew myself on a small scale and focus on the details that make the world a fascinating place.  And give me all other seasons in Italy, where I look out and up and feel the burdens of human life being evaporated from my body like so many dew drops.  Where you know that there’s no emotion, feeling or situation that this landscape hasn’t embraced before in the thousands of years worth of its history.  Sorrow, pain, death, destruction, joy, illness, enlightenment – it’s all been there before.  And it will continue.  But there’s something incredibly restorative about being in an ancient land and looking at the landscape.  It’s pure and powerful and it makes you feel strong and peaceful.  I’m glad I remembered that feeling today.  I think since I’ve been back I’ve been too focused on the details to see the vastness.  I’ve been looking down instead of up.  And now I will look up and out and see if I can recapture the lightness in my soul.

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