Seasons, Revisited

This season is remaking itself, slowly and daily. After the equinox, it seems to accelerate, rushing towards summer with an impatient temperament. The stirring rubs off on me. Every year at this time, I feel a craving for travel. Some years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to get into my car and drive to a distant area of this country. I can’t this year, but the persistent tug in the back of my mind doesn’t follow reason and practical limitations. What has surfaced this time is an image of the Grand Canyon. I have never been to that part of the country, so have never beheld it in real life. A friend of mine told me that, upon seeing it in person for the first time, she wept.

The image I saw was from a book I once perused when I was perhaps 11 years old. Then, I was in grade school and one of my teachers lectured about the natural wonders in different regions of North America. I wanted to see pictures of these places, but there were none at the school- all they had was a great map that rolled down like a window blind and wonderful narrative. I looked for some kind of help from books I could find at home. For whatever reason, we owned only two or three random volumes of the 16 volume Golden Book Encyclopedia of Knowledge. They were most certainly given to us as “hand-me-downs” from another family whose children had grown and no longed wanted them. Certainly, my parents did not have the money to spend on a full set of encyclopedias and would never have spent the money on them if they did. The encyclopedia volumes were old, published in 1959, tattered, with parts of the binders torn or missing. They were like treasures to me, with beautiful, wondrous illustrations of all sorts of exotic and interesting things I had never imagined. I saw my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon in one of those volumes. It was an illustration rendered in golds, umbers, yellows, siennas, oranges and browns. It was so unlike anything I had ever seen or expected to see. This was the image that returned to me this past week.

Over a year ago, I stopped by a garage sale at a friend’s house. The family was moving and they were downsizing. A box with the entire set of the Golden Book Encyclopedia of Knowledge was sitting there for sale. It was something that I had been secretly hoping to find one day. I had quietly kept an eye out for it at resale stores and garage sales throughout my adult life, but at last! Here was the entire set in wonderful shape. This was a box of treasure to me. My friend offered them for $1 per volume. He explained that his parents bought them for him when he was a child. He had kept them through his life, using them to spark curiosity in his own children. It was time to pass them on to someone else who would appreciate them. Certainly, I was destined to be that person.

Today, I went to the bookshelf as if on a pilgrimage, scanned the bookshelf for the right volume, Volume 7 (Gh-Ho), and opened its page to the picture of the Grand Canyon. I had not seen it since I was 11. Strangely, I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t the need to travel to the Grand Canyon in person, but to return to another place, in the past, in my mind. I had found what I had been longing for in the illustration itself…a connection to a time when things were less complicated and it was easy to be filled with wonder by the simpler things. The arrival of a new season can be much like this…it is a time to move away from what is and return to something that once was.

I have no doubt that I will one day see the enormous beauty of the Grand Canyon, as well as many other wonders I have seen only through the interpretive eye of a talented illustrator or photographer. I also know that the actual experience will be completely different from the illustration. That is OK. They must never be confused as being the same thing. Real things are ever changing; illustrations are the same each time you view them. For this, our memories are like illustrations, a fixed view of a past moment. The changing of things, of seasons, makes us long for the stability and certainty of things that do not change. Knowing this, I can embrace the cravings and impulses aroused by the arrival of a new time.

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