Friday, February 26, 2010

Deep Winter, Sheltering Winter

Spring is coming early to the Northwest this year. As the Northeast is white once again, we are nearly four weeks ahead of what the calendar would otherwise suggest. Prunus blossoms scent the air. Camellias, sculpted from pure beauty, radiate iridescence. The temperatures roll around in the 50s day after day, and it becomes less likely by the minute that winter will visit us at all.

Winter is the quiet space between the beats, the interlude after the earth exhales in late autumn, and before it catches its breath again in spring. When spring comes early, and crocus and hydrangea alike are lulled into taking the stage prematurely, the shock of their early glory delights our weary eyes. But the vulnerability of such precocity means that the slightest turn of a fickle sky can cut them cold to the ground.

So we enjoy the early show with a tinge of fear rustling around the edges of our appreciation, because we know it is susceptible to nature's sway, and there is nothing we can do. Like a child pressed ahead by parents beyond the point that his maturity can support, early lilacs run the risk of failing to thrive.

The human heart needs winter, too. If we are in the midst of making a decision, we do ourselves no favors by rushing to an early spring. We need to nestle in the quiet in-between that separates this time and that time. It is in this space that our hearts nurture and prepare us for doing the right thing, the thing we were born to do, the thing wrapped up in our being as tightly as the DNA that declares one plant a tulip and another a rose. Under a protective blanket of snow, or a deep grey sky, or the fog of indecision, the latent prepares to go forth into the world.

This year's early spring, by virtue of its departure from norm, reminds me of winter's great value: it slows down metabolism and keeps tender buds from rushing to show themselves until the time is right for them to do their best.

Winter is the time of glowing embers deep in back of the fireplace, of ashes that will grow cold. It is the time when we know we must build another fire, until the sun replaces it as the source of warmth and light, and we can move outdoors for seasons of growth and abundance. We must stay in our state of ambiguity until the light shines through and we know what to do next.

We can only move forward in spring if we have spent our winter tending the resources we will need in order to burst forth when the timing is right. The constant center in the middle of change is your heart's desire. And your heart's desire is the becoming part of you.

So bundle up. Protect and prepare. Bloom when the sun shines. And should an early spring be forced upon you, take care not to blame your tender heart.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Woman who Played George Clooney (Spoiler Alert)

I didn't see it coming. Did you? I believed that the woman in Up in the Air was every bit as busy as Clooney with her crazy flight and work schedule. It was difficult for me to imagine a woman being able to manage the emotions of the intensifying relationship between them, though, and then turn her back and catch a plane, but I chalked it up to one more aspect of contemporary society that I don't understand emotionally. I figured maybe young women today are possibly more inured to heartbreaks, both the getting and the giving, since so many topics are so openly discussed in public these days. Maybe this is what the level playing field looks like: we are all able to use each other, men and women alike.

I thought, But I know myself. If I had spent that much wonderful time with Ryan (George Clooney), I'd have wanted more than the occasional airport tryst. I'd have tried to keep my head, but my heart would have been racing ahead to thoughts such as, This feels different. I really like this man. I'd like to see more of him. I'd like a normal relationship. The Road Warrior life wears a woman down. I know. I did it for a few years and couldn't tell the difference between Arizona and Connecticut because all I saw was the inside of airports and hotels.

So in the movie of the supposed role reversal -- as Ryan/Clooney feels his own passion build, leaves the podium from a speaking engagement, and flies to Alix's home in Chicago presumably to profess his love -- we are asked to believe that the loving, attentive, sexy woman he has fallen for has been playing him the way generations of men have done the same to unsuspecting women across the country.

We learn she has a husband, and children: she has what she calls a real life. That her time spent with Ryan/Clooney is a diversion.

I don't buy it.

You can't just write a man's perspective into a women's role in a script and expect me to believe that's how a woman would behave. I don't care which generation she calls home. This woman was aware of her own feelings, and those of her lover Ryan/Clooney. We are asked to forget about any guilt or shame or ambivalence she might feel as a wife and mother, and believe that she would not inadvertently display some of this pathos in her behavior.

This movie is based on a novel written by Walter Kim, with a screenplay by Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman. It was directed by Jason Reitman. I don't know why they thought all they would have to do is switch the dialogue in order to switch the traditional roles. It takes more insight, and a lot bigger heart, to do that.

I'd rather have seen the same story written by a woman and directed by Nancy Meyers. Then perhaps we'd have had more than a gotcha cartoon. We might even have seen compassion.

What do you think of the man scorned turn of this movie?