I am a Californian born and raised. I grew up in a land without snow where even the summers are mild. As a result of our year round temperate climates, the seasons of my childhood were more defined by holidays and television commercials than actual palpable changes in weather. It took moving out of state to a city with real snow and freezing temperatures to really realize what much of the world sees in spring. To me, the whole year was full of color and life and greenery… it was only after a stark winter of cold and white and bare branches that I understood the magic of a spring blossom peeking up through the frozen ground.
But somehow this year, maybe because I’ve been spending more time outside, I have started to realize that even California has spring. It’s a much more subtle change. You can see it in the blooming of my very favorite yellow flowers all along the roadside, and you can see it right in your own backyard in the amazing new growth on every single bush and tree. Even though many of them kept their leaves throughout our mild winter, they are still reaching for the sky in the springtime. Growing and changing at an amazing rate.
I have been spending a lot of time in our yard soaking up the sunshine and marveling at the magic of springtime. And in all of my plant-gazing I have noticed something this year that I had never seen before. In almost every plant, big or small, the new growth of spring is different from the old growth in every single way. It’s lighter or brighter or a different color entirely. Sometimes it has a different texture or shape. But you can always, always tell what is new.
I have been making a lot of changes in my own life lately and a lot of them have made me feel awkward, self conscious or conspicuous. I want to try or do something new. I want to change. But that feeling of newness is easy to confuse with a feeling of inauthenticity. We are constantly reminded to be true to ourselves, to show our real personalities and express our true opinions. But sometimes the things that pique our attention, the things that we want to try and learn and do, will not be the same things that our selves of yesteryear would have done. We might like to try painting but brush it off saying “oh but I’m not artistic”. Says who? Maybe your old self wasn’t artistic but who’s to say you can’t learn? Just because something doesn’t fit perfectly into your current definition of self doesn’t mean that it can’t fit into the ever-evolving definition of your new self. We are growing and changing every minute of every day.
It is so easy to get caught up in defining who we are and what we like to do, but it’s important to realize that our notions of self can and must change. I certainly don’t want to wake up on my 60th birthday and realize that I am exactly as I was on my 30th.
In noticing the color of the leaves that are growing in my own backyard I have begun to realize that all new growth – be it on a tree or in my own life – is by the very nature of being new going to be distinguishable from the old. It would be silly to expect a seamless transition from one stage of life to the next. So of course we are going to feel conspicuous as beginners when we are learning a new skill. Of course it will be possible for outsiders to see that we are growing, learning and changing. But what is important to remember is that soon enough, even by the very next spring, that new growth will have somehow mystically blended into the old. What once felt foreign and new will soon become an established part of ourselves. And if that isn’t the magic of spring, well then I don’t know what is.
All images courtesy of my iphone 4s. They say the best camera is the one you have with you…