Suszynski: All the circles

Toward the end of March, when the ground starts to warm and the spring storms bring precipitation to the mountains, the sound of water becomes an everyday presence. On my street, the stream that runs alongside the road grows from a whisper to a conversational tone. I hear ice slowly thawing on the roof, sliding off and hitting the driveway. On the mountain, the fractures in the snow give way to velvety black water, a stream I didn’t know was there. Like a tree branch stamped into a white field, I sometimes stop and listen on the side of a run. When there is an amalgam of feelings reverberating through my body, turning to water helps me sort it out.

We spend so much time with water. During the winter, I am on it every day before work. In the spring, I scoop it into my hand, not able to dunk my whole arm in yet. Just one foot. The summer, fully submerged. It’s a healing substance, buoyant; it will run alongside you, fill in around you. In focusing on details like this to curb the turmoil of current events, I find myself repeating a line from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems titled “Swimming One Day, in August.” It begins like this: “It is time now, I said/ For the deepening and quieting of the spirit/ among the flux of happenings.”

When the spirit is agitated or bruised by external forces, it is difficult to feel settled. When such routine conveniences are attacked, our associations with places like supermarkets then cause a resounding dissonance. In maintaining my own headspace, I find naming and sounding out the dissonance in my life extremely important.

On Thursday, my friend Evan and I walked around a lake. The edges were still frozen, ducks were nested close to bushes to stay warm. I think I saw the beginnings of blades of grass pushing through the dirt. I liked circling the water. I liked imagining becoming the outer rings of a ripple. Our conversations circled back, too, lightly touched on the recent events in Boulder, and then spiraled into other realms again.

I mention Oliver’s poem to Evan: “Something has pestered me so much/ I thought my heart would break./ I mean, the mechanical part.”

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On Friday, I take the lift up, ski down, take the lift up, ski to another. In this way, I am making linked circles across the mountain. Like a chain necklace, I repeat the cycle of roundness on the snow that is melting as the sun grows stronger.

On Friday night, I listen to Mac Miller’s “Circles” on repeat: “Well this is what it look like right before you fall. Stumblin’ around, you’ve been guessin’ your direction. Next step you can’t see at all.” It’s a sad song on a sad album. In this particular song, he’s talking about the cycle of repetition. He tells his partner, “I can keep you safe,” “Do not be afraid,” “One day at a time.”

The cycle of repetition. Maybe a sense of being lost, sadness, internal struggle, the depths of which are below being seen anymore, a lack of support, purchase of a gun, lives lost. The ripples moving out and out and out. Mac Miller reminds his listeners that circles can be devastating.

Near my backdoor, there is a flowerpot that has filled with snowmelt. I stare through it and try to find the bottom. Perhaps there are dead leaves there, or maybe they have already turned into mush. Maybe there are bugs nesting for the spring. I stick my hand in the water, and then my arm. The shock of the coldness, the surprise at how easy it is to slip past surprise, then my hand turning numb. I leave it there and realize that I can remain in this position for a while. As long as I am numb, I am not registering the cold.

Mac Miller sings, “I don’t have a name I don’t have a name, no.” He asks, “Who am I to blame, who am I to blame though?” He concludes, “And I cannot be changed, I cannot be changed, no. Trust me, I’ve tried.

“I just end up right at the start of the line. Drawin’ circles.”

Certain cycles are fatal if not redirected. We have too many names. We have too many things to blame. We end up at the start of the line.

Water moves in circles, but it also rushes forth, recedes, is absorbed by the soil. If you zoom out even more, water is, however, part of a larger circle. The circles of the seasons. The circle of growth, of decay, the ski season.

I guess I am trying to comfort myself. We are capable of stopping these mass shootings, but will we? We are capable of inner reflection, but will the world improve if we know ourselves better? We are capable of comforting each other, but will it be enough? In my favorite words of Oliver, she closes the poem with: “About tomorrow. Who knows anything/ Except that it will be time, again/ for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

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