Spring and Fall
by Megan Arevalo
When I was a young girl of fifteen I told my father that I was interested in poetry. We were in the living room of our house and I was looking out a large, east facing window. It was a mild, overcast autumn afternoon. Outside the window was a quaking aspen tree that my father had planted. As I watched the leaves on the tree swiftly fluttering in the wind, my father read a poem to me by Gerard Manley Hopkins, his favorite poet.
Spring and Fall
to a young child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! As the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Sometimes when you hear something that moves you, it imprints an entire scenario in your memory forever: a unique, flawless moment in time that you can grasp in an instant from the extremities of your mind. It is eternal. This was one of those moments in my life.
About a year ago, I gave birth to a gorgeous boy and became a mother. Some days I walk with my son. I tie his body to mine with a long piece of fabric. His physique conforms to the shape of my torso and we are, for a moment, like one. I walk. I listen. I see. I pay attention to anything along the way that may charm my son: dogs walking along the street, buses noisily traveling with their passengers, birds boisterously chirping away or leaves defying gravity and floating through the air.
These moments with my son are tender and very dear to me, but they are also short-lived, fleeting, and polluted with darker emotions that materialize without my consent. As I watch my son experience the world I am filled with joy, yet there is a taste of sorrow that sours my lips and saturates my thoughts.
My son will continue to grow and flourish. He will experience all of the wonder that life and love bestow upon each living soul. And I, as nature has intended, will grow old and die. I will lose many things dear to me including my health, my beauty, my intelligence and wit, my loved ones, and eventually, my life.
Melancholy rolls through my body. I push it away with great force and focus on my son's pleasure. Motherhood has taught me to, at times, let the light of my son's life overpower the shadows of my own.
As a mother I am required to digest the certainty that my spring is over. The promise of death is everywhere. It surrounds me. Some days, it swallows me whole. However, if I search for it, I can uncover the comfort, the splendor, of motherhood. I imagine the roots I am planting in my son's life. I envision them growing though his soul just as the veins stretch through his arms. They widen, they extend, they elongate into a beautiful being.
I close my eyes as the vision unfolds and I feel, temporarily, bewitched. I am awakened to the world around me: the wind blowing, the birds chirping, the leaves suspended. I recollect the enduring moment I had with my father, and I long to replicate it with my own son. I catch a glimpse of our future together, sharing many treasured moments that will move him. I imagine my son summoning these memories from the extremities of his mind, and cherishing their abiding glow when he faces his own shadows. These moments will be eternal.
The suspended leaves slowly float through the air to the ground, decorating the soil. Like our remembered moments, the leaves pile together and become heavy, deep, grave. Now they are where "the wanwood leaf meal lie." These memories are the foundation and nourishment of my son's future. They will remain perfect, sustaining me as all else declines.
We stand to walk again. The earth below our feet is haunted—beautifully, endlessly—by our memories.
Spring and Fall by Gerard Manly Hopkins, 1918.
Megan Arevalo is a full-time mom and part-time artist who resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband Tony and son, Vincent. Most of her time is spent engrossed in motherhood, family, painting, and writing. She feels incredibly lucky that she is able to stay at home and soak up this valuable time with her son while still pursuing her dreams and passions. You can find more of Megan's work on her blog and follow her on Instagram.