Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Balm of Spring
by Annabelle Robertson

Change is in the air. Can you feel it? The sun is warmer, the breeze is gentler and the sky has exploded into a bright-blue light. All around us are signs of the season, pushing their way through hardened ground, in search of life. “The winter is over. The rains have come and gone,” wrote Solomon, in his Song of Songs.

I moved to Sumter, South Carolina, late last summer, after three years in California. Six months pregnant and grieving my father’s death, I had left Atlanta in 2005 to join my husband, an Air Force chaplain so eager for his first active-duty assignment that he drove ahead, leaving me and our toddler to pack the house and say our goodbyes alone. California had topped my “Anywhere but There” list, but Santa Barbara’s rolling hills, balmy weather and ubiquitous wineries delighted the senses. I threw away the umbrella; I lived outdoors. I grilled fish on the terrace, grew tomatoes from March through October and donned sweaters against the evening chill. I ate oceans of sushi and practiced my Spanish. And I tasted wines – robust merlots, glorious grigios, heavenly pinots – all bursting with flavor from their sun-drenched vines.

But two babies, one book and the weight of a shattered marriage had taken their toll. I didn’t recognize the woman in the mirror, and it wasn’t the extra pounds confounding me. It was the person I had become. So I made the decision to hire a personal trainer, and do the work that I had long avoided. Two years later, after dropping several sizes and completing my first triathlon, I realized that I had bought into an age-old lie. What I looked like did matter. It revealed who I was. And it empowered me, for better or for worse.

Having finally conquered the scale, I knew I could overcome anything – including my darkest fears. Somewhere in the world was a life of warmth and kindness and goodness, and I had no option but to find it. Before packing the U-Haul that hauled me from married life to single parenthood, however, I saw the looming specter of winter. I had long dreaded its reckoning, its solitude, its isolation. And yet, I had embraced its bitter chill for 15 years. Winter had been my captor.

But as surely as the ice withers the autumn leaf, so did the sun begin to warm my frozen heart. Winter’s cold had soaked my skin, crept into my bones and installed itself into my soul. But along with the narcissi and crocuses, hope finally began to claw its way to the surface. As the first days of spring arrived, I turned my face toward the sun and heard the echoes of a thousand ancient voices:

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded soul
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul

Spring. Life. Resurrection. I can feel it. Can you?

Annabelle Robertson is the author of "The Southern Girl's Guide to Surviving the Newlyed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You've Caught Your Man." She works as a reporter with The Item, an award-winning daily newspaper in Sumter, SC, and is currently working on a memoir.


Abigail Grace said...

This is lovely. Thanks.

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