I was jamming to this song (“2080” by Yeasayer) while cutting up some shallots the other night. I’ve always misinterpreted one of the lines to be, “It’s the first spring some have seen.” (These are the real lyrics, if you’re interested.) I prefer my version because it reminds us that spring is special and beautiful, and that some of us are experiencing that wonder at nature’s beauty for the first time.
When my little brother Sam was four or five years old, I was visiting home during that season’s first snow-shower. Sam had his nose and the palms of his hands pressed up against the glass door, staring out at the falling snow in disbelief. It had snowed in years past, but he’d been too young to remember.
“Sam,” I said. “What’s that?” I pointed outside.
“Snow!” he cried.
“What’s it like?” I asked him.
He rolled his eyes at me and, as much as a four-year-old can sound exasperated, said with a sigh, “I don’t know.” As in, how should he know? I’d figured he would answer with something like, “wet,” or “cold” – something he knew about snow without actually having experienced it, but instead he was perfectly honest. He knew snow when he saw it, and that was all he knew about it but, as evidenced by his nose on the glass, he was eager to learn more.
And who wouldn’t be eager, with gorgeous snowy trees?
I think many of us value first experiences to a certain extent, new parents especially: first smile, first steps, first word, first day of school. There are new experiences for us adults to celebrate too: first car, first home, first vacation, first international trip.
While listening to that Yeasayer song, a reading (The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele, chapter 6) I’d been assigned as part of my yoga teacher training occurred to me, and a particular passage of that reading, about letting go, or non-attachment, which is also an important tenant in Buddhism (I’ve found that Christians tend to refer to this concept with the terms “idols” and “idolatry”). The idea is this: if you’re spending time, energy, and effort regretting a past action or experience; holding onto some false conception of your identity; or even something that makes you sad – a poorly ended friendship or missed opportunity – what you’re really doing is taking space away from any new opportunities, experiences, or adventures that may come your way. If I continue to beat myself up about a bad breakup, I’m keeping myself from fully enjoying all the other relationships in my life. More concretely, if I hold onto every single pair of shoes I acquire, pretty soon my closet won’t have any more room for even lovelier heels and flats and boots and sandals that may come my way.
Children are able to have so many new experiences so easily because they are spacious and eager to fill their shelves but, as we grow older, we must learn to make space and part with our pasts.
[Don’t worry, I still keep all my prettiest shoes.]
Love to all!