April has a tendency to crack me open. Like an egg tapped on the rim of a bowl. Like ice sheets splitting as the river picks up speed.
I have a tendency to forget this, year after year. Until I find myself standing somewhere, an umbrella in my hand, feeling in my bones the timelessly, innately comforting rhythm of the rain, while my chest is swamped with sharp, familiar vulnerability. You could call it heartbreak, even if nothing has happened to break my heart. Like a layer of skin has burned off and I have not yet adjusted to being so exposed to the world.
Much as I love spring and fall – the transition seasons – I have seen again and again that they churn something inside me, bring to the surface softer, more malleable parts. As if their comforting homes melt with the snow, anxieties come loose and start twisting around my lungs and eyes. While trees unfurl their first vibrant leaves, the more vulnerable parts of me tend to stir, open their hearts to the world.
And all I can do is hold my hands open, bear witness to the strange thing and hold space for a bit of divinity to shine down and clarify – if I’m lucky. Spring time, I remember when I have ignored the shifting too long and the heaviness comes up me with ferocity, is for sitting outdoors, eyes closed, feeling out those feelings as they rise and fall and, eventually, always, stiffen into something else for a while.
Why now? I have no idea. Because life is cyclical, I suppose. We climb mountains, and walk down them again. We build homes and burn them to the ground. We grow, harvest, can and await the spring. Just wait. The season will always change.
Spring in Italy is shockingly timely. March 20th on the dot: flowers started to bloom, the sun stayed out to tempt leaves from their buds, crowds of people started sitting in the piazza eating gelato on Sunday afternoon.
I am from a place where spring creeps in slowly and is over quickly, while winter fights for her place until at least the beginning of May. To see such a brilliant April – one with rainy days leading to daffodils, trees blossoming in pastels, such eager grass shooting up between fields full of flowers – is like a fairytale.
As in so many other ways, Italy is the poster child for this season.
This is my third April in Italy, the second since I legally became a resident here. How time is passing! I stopped to watch the same tress that are blossoming this week turn brilliant hues and let go of their leaves six months ago. I am coming to know them.
I knew eventually it would happen: that I would feel at home here. I trusted it, held tight to it, even when it seemed impossible just a year ago. It still amazes me that I am beginning to feel like this place is actually my home. I have been traveling a lot for work lately, and in each coming back, I feel more and more relieved, plant myself deeper and deeper in this place I have been welcomed into.
In July, I will be 30 years old. As I turned to corner to the final 6 months of my 20’s, I began taking stock, trying to find rhythms in the paths and cycles I have lived, see where I am ending up.
My grandmother tried to teach me me how to knit when I was a girl. I have never been as good as she is (she’s hand-knit Christmas stockings, hats, socks, innumerable treats for those she loves), but in my practice, I have seen how easy it is to undo all the work you have just completed: grab the right thread and all the knots will slip out from each other’s grasp willingly, almost eagerly, ready to be restitched.
If I have not mastered how to knit yarn in the last 30 years, what I have had plenty of practice in is knitting a life together. It always started with a big risk, a rush to jump off a cliff and a leap. This cliff jumping, from higher and higher mountains, with fewer and fewer safety nets along the way is something I got shockingly adept at doing in my early 20’s. Since I reached adulthood, it felt as though my life was becoming a series of escalating dares with the Universe, and I shook on each one and ran to jump off the cliff, only to find more and more magic in my life on the other side.
The first time I took a big risk was… I wrote and erased an antidote to finish this sentence several times without an answer – the trip to San Francisco with Lauren, the summer job in Yellowstone, the graduation road trip to Colorado with my girlfriends, going to the Arts High School – which came first, and was that really the beginning?
Wherever it started, a week before my 25th birthday, I had ended up in Los Angeles, where I had amazing friends, a well-paid job that I genuinely liked, owned a car and lived in a house with a big porch shaded by an oak tree. I was so damn happy. And I drove away from it all willingly, excitedly. I had woven something incredible together with hard work and a bit of divine inspiration, and one morning at the end of June 2014, I took the edge of that sweater and began to pull. I tugged and unknit mid-stitch, almost gleefully as I drove alone across the desert, accepting the next big dare, that little voice in my gut that had been whispering, prodding me for so long.
That trip away from California lead me on to Amsterdam and south across Europe, to Greece then north to Ireland and finally, to Italy where I was greeted by a man who was becoming familiar to me, with whom I was starting to feel deep, terrifying hope for something that looked an awful lot like my life right now. It was an amazing trip that adventure I left everything for. And I came back home with an opportunity, an Italian boyfriend, a very big cliff that was too tempting not to take full advantage of.
I sometimes wonder if we had met in different circumstances, if I was not in the middle of a long trip where magic felt possible at every turn, if I was not in the process of unraveling my whole life as I knew it, would I have accepted the invitation?
It doesn’t matter. I am here.
Since I got back to Minnesota and decided not to stay, in my unraveling of yet another part of my journey, in making space for a whole new life to crack through and form, I found myself loosening more stitches than I ever intended to. I unraveled even further back than I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it was joyful, it was delightful. I was not thinking about the costs. It was full of hope and love and trust in the Universe and the bet we were making. But then suddenly it was unnerving when I looked down and saw clearly what I had done, how much loose yarn was in my lap, yarn that used to be outline shape of me. I was at the barest of bones of the life I knew, undoing knots that felt curtail and fundamental, so deeply important that others started to fall apart as they untangled. I waited for a long time, feeling as though I may have gone too far, bet too much on a chance with a handsome man I met on a beach.
I can say now, that I have finally – nearly four years after that drive home across North America – rewoven enough of this new version of my life that I can wrap it round my shoulders and rest. I can see myself again.
In the end, the Universe has begun to pay out its end of the bet, and the dividends are what I hoped, though they don’t look exactly as I imagined.
Until I was 26, I was never the sort of person to pass up an opportunity to walk through fire. For the last few years, I have been paying the prices for this life of mine, prices I did not stop to tabulate before I signed on the dotted line.
I have lived many lives in the last ten years, and in order to live so many versions of myself, I had to let go of all of them one by one. I have had to pay debt (literally and metaphorically) for the choices I have made. I have mourned so much of what I walked away from, some moments more fiery than others. I still wonder at my haste, and naive disregard for how hard it can be to have things so very, very good. But I have never regretted leaving or coming. Things keep coming back round.
And if I can say anything, it is that I lived each of those lives fully, never half-assed this journey, even the really hard times.
I always trusted (or at least tried hard to remind myself to trust) that I would come home in Italy, but couldn’t figure out what shape that would possibly take. As fall and winter loosen up and the Mediterranean starts heating up, I have begun to see and hear myself. Even as April shakes me and stirs up familiar sadnesses, I recognise my voice in this new and strange language, on these streets, feel this home is mine and is decorated with my things.
It will pass, a new fire will come, I will jump or be pushed off another cliff, a new change will shake me. But for now, this is my job this year: breathing in, expanding, learning, seeing myself in this season, the parts of me that rise up in the spring and settle back in the summer.