New beginnings: A really old circle

By Dawn De Busk

There’s nothing like a new beginning. A clean slate is great.

What better time could there be than the spring to illustrate new beginnings in one’s life? From the vernal equinox revitalization of mosquitoes that overwintered here to the nest building of Maine’s many migratory birds, from the first few days of green-up to the full-out flowering of woodland plants and garden varieties, spring is the epitome of brand new beginnings.

In my own life, my household recently moved from Raymond to Casco. Four years ago, we lived in North Windham — off the charmingly small, but crowded Pettingill Pond. At this pace, if I change my residence to another neighboring town every two years, I should be living in Bridgton by 2018.

However, given the labor and stress involved in making a move, I’d be pleased to pass the three-year mark without renting another U-Haul, or enlisting the assistance of friends with trucks and strong backs.

Plus, why move again?

This newfound home is the ultimate amenity. Every sore rib, every bruise on my shins, and every aching muscle was worth the move.

So, I would like to toast to beginnings, as well as making two arguments for going in the direction of fresh, unknown journeys. One: It is not always easy. Two: It’s never really a clean slate or a linear start-over, but part of a much broader and much older cycle.

Would anyone like to pause for the toasting part?

You will have to recite your own tribute because I don’t have one written. Although, now that I think of it, an Irish one comes to mind: “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

Now, onward to the argument: It is not always easy. Frequently, it might be obvious that a beginning must flinch into action. Not unlike the seemingly non-stop task of transplanting all of those “belongings” from one place to another place, changes require fortitude, hard work and some sacrifices.

Remember, our forefathers — the ones who came from Europe to the new Americas in ships. They sometimes had only a suitcase or a trunk to their names. Those who moved north from Massachusetts and those who much later loaded up their wagons and moved west, they were limited on what belongings they were able to keep. Much was left behind.

Their new beginnings shine in comparison to mine — they gave up a lot more to move forward and upward. But, I like to imagine I am marching on in their adventurous footsteps — only I’m wearing much smaller (and probably more comfortable) shoes.

If I were to compare changes in the earth to those in human life, it could be said that true change cannot happen without first a violent uprooting or shaking up. Forest fires that burn thousands of acres allow pine and spruce to regrow in new spaces. The heat breaks open the cones, and the flames burn the previous sun-blocking canopy. An active volcano can create an island, shift a landscape, and leave behind riveting rock formations such as obsidian that humans will admire hundreds of years later. Mountains carry scars (chutes and ravines) where winter’s avalanches have rushed downward with the weight of concrete on the earth. When the snow stops, the air that the avalanche had pushed aside continues to blast forward like a tremendous sigh that splinters trees into toothpicks.

Maybe, the violent shifting of earth is too intense of a comparison for human change. Perhaps, I’ve heard the saying, “No pain, no gain” one too many times.

However, I am a firm believer that humans can cultivate change, and get things accomplished by applying physical push, a readiness to roll up one’s sleeves and mental determination.

Of course, it is equally appealing some days to sit back in a rocking chair and wait for change to arrive in the dooryard. The latter approach is how the Grand Canyon, formed as miles of rock, took centuries to finally yield to the flow of water over its surface.

So, humans are not entirely different than the earth upon which they live. Nor are humans separate from the seasonal cycles. We accelerate in the busy making of spring. But, spring is not new to any of us. Even when salamanders, salmon, ospreys and loons hatch from eggs — those critters are born into a cycle that breathes in and exhales the same moisture that witnessed an ice age, and the births of my many ancestors.

In my yard, a sturdy tree house is grounded by an oak tree. Like the home, which is prepared for adverse weather with two sources of heat (a wood or coal-burning stove in the basement and an efficient Toyo monitor upstairs), the roof of the tree house tilts to slough off snow. Preparedness is peace of mind. And, the tree house has a ladder and a slide to boot.

That outdoor structure claims its place as my slice of heaven on earth. I am not sure if I can get any closer. Still, I’ll reevaluate that belief in another two years to see if it needs to be tweaked.

So, let us toast again to new beginnings. To those tiny start-overs we encounter as we ride the immense cycle of change.

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