The Shortest Month

I once worked with a Sci-Fi nut who took pride in seeing everything, knowing everything and being first to everything. With a brand-new Star Wars film on the horizon he was saving pennies and beginning to bubble. And in order to ensure he saw it before anyone else he knew, he bought plane tickets to go and watch it on the opening weekend in Los Angeles.

We’d all seen the trailers by the time he set off, and we’d all read the reviews by the time he returned, but he did his best to stay upbeat. It was all about the ‘experience’ and the ‘sound’ at whatever Hollywood cinema he’d been to – but his eyes betrayed him. A blankness of expression that within days had hollowed into an empty soul. I felt for him, we all did. Everyone has felt that deep sense of anti-climax at some point. No-one else though, had blown four months of wages just to watch The Phantom Menace.

The problem with waiting for something – willing something – is that we distort time in order to get there quicker. To reach a place faster we have to stop being. We switch off and disengage, letting minutes drift into hours without conscious thought. Yet, the bad things still drag on – work, washing up or dentist appointments. We cannot hasten the pain of the mundane, so instead, we squander the moments that are actually ours. The only moments we have any control over are those that demand nothing from us, but because we have convinced ourselves that some future happening is all that matters, we wish them away rather than fill them with wonder. Watching a big screen in the corner of the room or a smaller one in our hand. Scrolling through mindless social media posts or angering over issues that have no bearing on our own lives.

And then, when the ‘thing’ finally happens, we can’t break the pattern. It vanishes in a blink because we have conditioned ourselves to numb out whenever opportunity presents itself. Before we can breathe we find ourselves back in the old routine, creating a new future focus to strive towards.

There is a moment, in May, that I long for every year. That point that just precedes completion – the cow parsley and red campion not quite in full flower, ransoms still bright, hawthorn and horse chestnut still breaking. Elder on the way, blackbirds and song thrushes still singing, and swallows and martins busy around the eaves and soffits. Orange-tips are still in flight but the summer butterflies are still pupating, and then there is the green of everything. Emerald effervescence in every leaf, stalk and shoot. The world feels so positive and there is so much still to come.

And although I appreciate aspects of every season and subtlety of change, I find myself aching for this little period of spring when everything is in its right place. In part, no doubt, because it is around now (and it hasn’t come quite yet) that I feel my own fug beginning to lift. The sun finally burning through an overcast mind.

The key for me now is to engage. To look up and out and absorb. Smell, hear and feel. Catching a moment in a place I might easily have been blind to. It might be impossible to slow time’s passing, but surprisingly easy to be the boss of it. And then, when the inevitable change comes, it can be appreciated for what it can offer and not be a reminder of what has gone.

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