Waters of March
it's the mud, it's the mud
For my birthday, Joe and I went to see a movie in the theater, one of our favorite activities from the before times. It was a Norwegian movie called The Worst Person in the World and very much my thing. The credits rolled to Art Garfunkel singing the "Waters of March,” which I glommed onto the way I sometimes glom onto songs. Only when I looked it up on later did I realize it’s originally a Brazilian song by Antonio Carlos Jobim, who also translated it into English. He changed some of the lyrics for listeners in the north, where March brings “the waters of defrost” and the start of spring, rather than the rains marking the end of summer in Brazil. The Portuguese version apparently doesn’t include the phrases "the joy in your heart” and “the promise of spring,” but the overall idea of the song still makes sense. I like thinking of March this way, as a month connecting the northern and southern hemispheres. (I guess another term for this is the spring equinox, which is on March 20th this year.) Whether winter’s on its way in or out, we’re all in the mud.
There has been at least one thaw since I last wrote to you. When we took our road trip to Maine, Portland was covered in a thick layer of impenetrable ice. We’d gotten the same ice storm in Northampton, but it got warm enough here to melt most of it away. Not so in Maine. I’m honestly not sure how most of the state wasn’t nursing head injuries. I had an exemplary parenting moment clutching Joanna on the frozen sidewalk outside our Airbnb screaming that I was going to fall. But I didn’t, and the next day, temperatures soared to the fifties, melting all the ice. The girls and I went to a very muddy, windy playground on the water.
Since then, it’s snowed again, but a softer, deeper snow, the kind that fluffs up the rooftops, the kind that could cushion a fall.
March also marks an anniversary for me. Eight years ago, I quit drinking in March. The decision didn’t really have anything to do with March itself, or maybe it did. It was almost exactly a month after the birthday on which I’d turned 31, yet I was still drinking like a college student. That is: copiously and messily, navigating drama, blackouts, and hangovers. I never knew what was going to happen when I drank. I kept waiting for this to change, but as I entered my thirties, it became clear that I was the one who was going to need to change. So I quit drinking, and my life has gotten nothing but better since.
I count myself lucky that the solution was so simple. At the time, though, it didn’t feel simple. It felt very complicated, and not drinking became My Main Thing for a while. I went to meetings and became close with other people doing the same, and these relationships were crucial to my ability to follow through with quitting. But then life got very big, and now I have other main things. I still get messy. I’m often not at peace with my own brain chemistry. But I’m a reliable partner, parent, and friend. And the way my life has improved in the past eight years has affirmed that alcohol was the thing that needed to go.
I’ve written about this before in fiction and essays. But I wanted to come out and say it directly here, since it’s not always the kind of thing I want to delve into over the dinner table. It also might explain some things to people who knew me over eight years ago. And finally, I share it on the chance someone reading is struggling with their own drinking. The example, stories, and support of friends were what made this path possible for me. If you feel like you could use any of that right now, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
March is named for the Roman god of war. I wish there weren’t so many people who still worshipped him. I appreciated this anti-jingoistic piece from NYT’s The Daily as a reminder that not everyone wants to die for their country and not everyone has a choice. I’ve been getting most of my news about Ukraine from The Daily, which is at least a more reliable source than Twitter.
It’s hard to have hope about the situation in Ukraine, but this poem by Charles Reznikoff, which George Saunders shared in his newsletter today, gave me a glimmer of something resembling it.