April comes softly…
April comes softly…

April comes softly…

Treading softly, April comes whispering. It dispels the sharp March winds and pushes the gray clouds aside. Tulips pop their heads through the soil, bird songs fill the air. A truly magical month, April sings its glory to those who begin to venture outside, wiping winter’s sleep from their eyes and opening their hearts to the sun.

Rebirth. Release. Rejoice. Rebuild. Redeem.

We experience seasons in our lives as well. April represents the day I stepped out of prison, my sentence complete, my heart full of hope, and my eyes soaking up the long-denied sunshine. The simplest things are what I missed the most. The things I always took for granted but have never done so since that day in April 2008.

What do you think you might miss the most being locked up in prison? The obvious answers are good food, nice clothes, movies at the theater, car rides, pie, bacon… But you might be surprised at the things I missed the most, the intangibles.

Stars. I hadn’t been outside after dark in forever. I couldn’t stop looking up. How beautiful and big the night sky is. How perfectly small it makes one feel. Part of something bigger than you can grasp. Pure delight to have the freedom to gaze at the stars.

Hugs. I was never a hugger before prison. One of the prisons I served time in allowed in-person visits and my mother’s hug became the highlight of my week. That stay though, was only five months of my total twenty-seven months behind bars. The entire rest of my time I had only my mother’s hand on the glass to connect me to her. Hugs are the most powerful and vulnerable gestures in life and now I never miss an opportunity to hug someone.

Opening doors. The freedom to open a door any time you wanted to and walk through it and turn around and walk back time and again, just for the joy of being able to do so. In and out. In and out. So much freedom in that small act.

Sunsets. The most beautiful ones came while I was sitting on my mom’s deck looking out over the pond. Oh, the miraculous feeling you get deep inside when the sky turns golden and softly pink and spreads into cobalt blue preparing for the stars to visit.

Birds. You might think you’d still hear birds singing while inside prison, but somehow the birds knew enough to stay away from such a gray and dreary place. Once a robin hopped into the prison yard right in front of me and I marveled at that precious gift for weeks. The smallness and joy of birds have never left me. Now, I find myself tossing pieces of biscuit and scrambled eggs to a particular gray bird in the parking lot at Chick-fil-A. He welcomes me each morning from his perch high in a tree, sometimes even coming to sit on my side mirror asking for his breakfast. April is the month where there is not one, but two gray birds to feed. And soon I’ll see their young ones begging for mom to give them the biscuit crumb she just picked up.

Shopping. Oh, how I’ve always loved shopping. But my first day of freedom, a visit to Walmart with my mom sent me into a panic. So many people! Pushing around into my space. It wasn’t safe. Eventually, I got over being panicked at crowds, but it surprised me that I felt it at all. I still prefer small groups instead of crowds. Having never gone to a concert, my husband took me to a Garth Brooks concert. It was exhilarating! But I couldn’t breathe in the crowd. So many people. It was crushing. And I seemed to be getting the flu. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom and standing in the lobby watching Garth on the TV monitor. Eventually, we decided to leave and the moment I stepped outside, I felt fine. Turns out I didn’t have the flu, it was just prison residual about the danger of being in a crowd with no options of escape.

Choices. I never realized how many options there were for selecting a toothbrush. How does one possibly make the best decision? For years, I had no options and felt lucky to have enough money on my books to buy a new toothbrush when I needed one. Now I just stand sometimes and marvel at all the possibilities.

Prison is tough and it definitely impacts you for the rest of your life. But I can’t wish it out of my life. Going to prison opened a part of me that had always been closed. Today I treasure the small things, the intangible things, the beauty in the world around me. And that’s one of the many gifts prison gave to me.

What’s your favorite thing about spring?

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