Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Betrothal

“There is nothing I so abominate for young people as a long engagement.”
 —Mrs. Croft in Jane Austen’s
Persuasion.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and snow flurries have mingled and danced with sunshine since dawn, now gray, now bright, now gray again. Who leads this reel and who follows? I am dizzy in the midst of all this swirling indecision. Blades of green and flakes of white contend for dominance on the ground beneath my feet. For now, the white is winning.

The weather is in that state of limbo we call March, but which the calendar still obstinately calls “Winter.” Nevermind that the snow started falling long before the Calendar informed us, in its authoritarian way, that Winter could officially begin.

From its lofty vantage, my Calendar has a clear view through the kitchen window of what is now going on outside, and it knew that Spring was ready to move in weeks ago. A ridiculously fat robin was out there, hopping around the yew branches in plain sight. Sun was lazily warming the clusters of primroses blooming on my table. Snow was melting, and mud was rising. A pile of children’s black rain boots littered my floor. But the over-anxious Spring must have looked up through the fingerprint-smeared glass, noticed the hard gaze of my Calendar, and, realizing its sad mistake, left without saying goodbye. As if the snow had not lingered long enough, that decorative dictator hanging from my cupboard door insists that Spring is still two weeks away. Cruel, cruel.

• • • • • •

March is always engagement. Betrothal. It is the Already/Not Yet of every year. It is (the Calendar notwithstanding) neither Winter nor Spring; it is neither celibicy nor marriage. Winter is retreating, but Spring, as yet, is nothing but a sharp desire, a promise unfulfilled.

I and the naked branches are wearing this ring that glitters like ice. It weighs us down like wet snow. But these vows will be fulfilled. The dress is purchased, and the date is set. Already I feel the sun—like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber—lend its heat to the table where my cup of coffee grows cold.

March is pregnancy awaiting birth. Those warm days that come with greater frequency as the month wears on bring all the thrill and disappointment of false labor. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The new life for which we yearn is buried in damp earth. Locked inside its womb. I feel the pangs, and I watch the frozen ground for signs of dilation, effacement. Nothing. Braxton and Hicks, how I hate you. The whole creation groans.

The high and mighty Kitchen Calendar has also decreed that Lent begins this week. There it is, printed in stark black and white: “Ash Wednesday.” Tomorrow we die.

• • • • • •

Every morning, I peer through the curtains, hoping for fresh signs of green. I check the forecast and see nothing but snow. But I feel a rumbling that the weatherman has missed. It is the rumble of thunder not from the clouds but from the earth—the chest-rattling sound of a heavy stone rolling. 

I am ready for the sun to burn through this cosmic permafrost. I long to fling the windows wide to an air perfumed not with embalming spices but with hyacinths and lilacs. I want to hurry through the front door and discover the shroud has melted away. I want to turn and find myself unexpectedly face-to-face with the “gardener” only to realize that He is the Spring—the Resurrection for whom my long-betrothed soul aches.

This is Lent. This is a wilderness. Forty weary days awaiting consummation. Forty dreary days of relentless rain. Forty days of testing. Of hunger and thirst. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. This is a long engagement. This is a pregnancy overdue.

This is March. In the empty fields I can see where rocks have surfaced through the snow-speckled mud. But resurrection will come: these hills will live again, and these stones will become bread. These days of fasting will end.

Send out the wedding invitations. This long engagement will soon reach its fulfillment. The Calendar cannot hold it back. The snow cannot lead this dance forever; the sunshine will cut in and begin the nuptial feast in earnest, strewing flowers in its path.

8 comments:

JD....the eighth wonder of the world.... said...

wow, your write so lovely and nice....

Claire said...

Simply marvelous. If I ever get caught up, this may be in my commonplace book someday.

Chxzanâdeau said...

Oh my goodness. This is amazing - I love the way you write. Thank you so much - it's beautiful!

Claire said...

This is lovely, Hannah.

FruitfulMama said...

Your writing is so beautiful! You have quite a way with words. Thank you for sharing.

Melissa Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Joy said...

This is tantalizing in the best way.

Seda said...

Our wedding, as well as the births of our two boys, took place in the Spring. March has definitely been a month of much waiting and heavy anticipation. This post resonates with my soul. Thank you for your beautiful string of words.

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