the shifting of seasons
For me, the shifting of seasons is always nostalgic. Four times each year, natural transformations—in the crispness of the air, the first appearance of buds on branches, the falling leaves, the way the sunlight hangs in the air—arrive and pass. I recognize that these shifts don’t happen everywhere. But in most places where the seasons can be distinctly identified, there are palpable consistencies. The transience of such changes is as universal as the ceaseless forward march of time.
Familiarity often evokes sentimentality, so the seasons have a unique ability to carry me back through the years. The first hot, dry summer day brings back memories of last-day-of-school restlessness, public pool swim lessons, family barbecues, and sunburnt beach days. The arrival of cooler air and clear blue skies reminds me of leaping into leaf piles, running cross country races, frantically finishing college applications, and chatting before dying bonfires. The first snow transports me to full days of sledding and the post-play thaw in front of the fireplace, hot cocoa warming my hands and belly as the snow melting from my hair drips onto the floor.
The smell of honeysuckles, sweet and surprisingly strong on a warm early spring breeze, never fails to carry me back to my earliest memory.
It is a pleasant day. The sun is warm on my skin, its light an orangey-gold, glowing the way it does in the afternoon. My family still lives in South Carolina.
I am riding a bike—purple and sparkly with pink training wheels. Sweaty curls sneak out from beneath my rainbow helmet, which feels hot against my forehead. My mother walks alongside me as my short legs pedal me down the rust-colored dirt road that winds its way toward a new housing development just around the corner from our home. My little sister, Gabi, is in my mother’s arms, only an infant at the time and still too young to be more than a quiet presence, observing and absorbing as she still does so carefully today.
We follow the path to an open area. Despite its nearness to our own neighborhood, it feels distinctive. The vast openness, still untouched by builders with their bulldozers, cement, and wooden planks, seems pregnant with possibility, existing in a seldom-touched space between man and nature.
I recall a clear, and perhaps mistaken, awareness of my independence. I feel strong and safe with my mother—who now seems ethereal in this dream-like memory—by my side. There is a sense of comfortable solitude, liberating in a way that I find hard to describe. Perhaps it is the calmness of the day, the slowness of time, the feeling of being cradled by a landscape not yet changed by human hands.
We are stopped in the clearing for the honeysuckles. The vines wind skyward with an imposing stature, rising far above the top of my rainbow helmet. A wall of deep, lush green dotted with yellow and white stars emerges from the soft carpet of grass beneath my worn sneakers. It stretches up almost endlessly into the cloud-dotted blue overhead. The stars are elegant, magical. Not so distant as those in the night sky, but equally special. They contain a different mystery.
My mother plucks one from its bed and places its soft velvety petals in my small outstretched palm. She pulls another one for herself and shows me how, if you use the crescent moon of your fingernail, you can pull the thread-thin filaments through the base of the flower to collect a single, glistening drop of nectar. She lifts it to her lips, a sweet secret beloved by people and hummingbirds alike.
It is like fairy’s honey: an unexpected treat, a delicate surprise. Just barely resting on my tongue, it is a sweet sparkle that lingers for a moment before disappearing altogether.
This fleeting temporality of the nectar’s sweetness is what makes the moment so special. The sugary drop in itself is small and insignificant. It dissolves quickly before fading into that intangible sieve of memory. No single person can hold the glimmering treat for any length of time. But we can share the secret with others. In passing along the surprise, so fleeting in nature, we allow it to be infinite: endlessly given, received, and remembered.