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Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Angel Troubling the Pool, c.1845

'Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered; waiting for the movement of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.' John 5.2-4

" … in need of an angel or two to trouble overlong-still waters."

Spring finally arrived after six full months of winter. Through the short days and the early lengthening ones, I survived on my usual time-worn fantasy, that if I was not snowed in, I would be out in my garden, on my knees, praising all creation, troubling dirt. I fondly fantasized about really taking control of my landscaping, culling rocks and loosening soil until the yard looked like a Sunset® Magazine cover. Once spring came, though, I watched myself milling around the periphery of the pool awaiting the arrival of an angel, I suppose, as if I needed permission to begin. I thought the season a false one at first, distrusting the prankster weather, disbelieving that the snows had actually passed, even after the snowbank melted into nothing more threatening than ground moisture. I'd all winter imagined myself simply springing back after hibernation, but I found myself rusty and distinctly less resilient than I'd remembered myself being before.

Resilience seems to be one of those overblown concepts, the kind that imagine much differently than they ever manifest.
In anticipation, all things seem possible, even likely. In practice, resilience reacts more like a RustySpring, more complain-y and resistant than ever expected. Few of us spring back very crisply for we've lost the rhythm of our former engagement, that invisible cohering property we probably never suspected we'd possessed. Blessed with that insensitivity and by the beneficent gods of forgetfulness, we easily imagine ourselves more adaptive than we've ever actually been. We firmly believe that we might just pick back up where we left off, as if we accurately remembered where we were when that former world froze.

We cannot know how resilient we'll actually be and our tenacious disbelief that we might be aging, changing as time plods along, leaves us queued up for another awakening—not a reawakening, but another authentically original one. Our spring was rusty last year, but we remembered only accomplishment and conveniently forgot the struggle we'd survived. My knees squeak like a rusty Studabaker. Like an aging car, I remain my model year however many seasons pass under me. What once seemed the very paragon of exquisite design now dating itself with its very presence, looking more artifact than innovation. My garden tools seem likewise ancient, shovels epoxied together and blades speckled, handles brittle and dry. I eventually find a rhythm, one I cannot immediately recognize, and start digging as if left-handedly. I have to wait to see if my old techniques produce results again. I might have outgrown them while idling.

This week, I came to realize that we'd been ten full weeks sequestered, as The Muse reminded me, a fifth of a year. Spring arrived somewhere in there, but the forced isolation rendered the time dreamlike, as if the very passage of time had stopped mattering. I feel grateful for the arrival of spring during our sequestering, for if this pandemic had hit in the early fall, the foreseeable future would have shriveled into winter's infinite nothing-muchness. As it turned out, spring brought reassurance, even if the resilience it promised turns out to be a little more rusty than I'd forgotten it was before. Spring carried something worth aspiring for, not so much a return to normal, but a resumption of the possibility of rewarding engagement. I have been digging the dirt again and I have found my rusty skills still equal to the tasks so far. My back aches with deep satisfaction, a vast improvement over coma-like hibernation. This seems a RustySpring, in need of an angel or two to trouble overlong-still waters.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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