How to Survive Spring* (selections)

by Sol Paz Kistler 

Start by reading the signs on your morning walk into work. The season is changing; it’s those first, terribly precious indications that winter is acquiescing to spring. Through the patches of frost you can see the milky, pendulous heads of the snowdrop flower, Galanthus nivalis, pushing up through the benumbed ground. The light is clear and supple, and the rain is a soft mist that lays itself gently against your face; gossamer like a bridal veil. Birds are flashing among branches, softly mewling and quivering with excitement at the return of the light. The only spring ephemerals you can see so far are the G. nivalis, but the Narcissus poeticus, with their solitary buds wrapped in dry, papery spathes will be next to open.

This morning as you walk, consciously will yourself to experience a type of rebirth of your own. Convince yourself that you are just as tender and precious and resilient as the sweetness of early spring. Imagine this rebirth as though an orchestra is warming up

at the center of your heart. Let all dolorousness and aching numbness drain away and flow out of you. Fill yourself up on the frost retreating and the earth yielding and breaking open. Take in gulps of petrichor like someone starving, and think of words like: ambrosial. Tell yourself that today marks the day that you will start a becoming that involves a special kind of sensitivity to the world, akin to divination.

Believe that you are actually prepared for this type of attunement.

*Moore, Lorrie. “How To Be an Other Woman.” Self-Help, Vintage Contemporaries, 1985, pp. 3-17. 


When you walk home that night, taste this saccharine sweetness fully open up inside of you; it’s as though your lungs have expelled water, and are greedily filling up on air. Beg that it be here to stay, ––this new you. Make a list of flowers you expect to see bloom in the coming months:

1. Crocus tommasinianus

2. Eranthis hyemalis

3. Hyacinthus orientalis

4. Leucojum vernum

5. Scilla bifolia

As you approach your house, notice the little blonde girl who lives next door playing in the grass. She has plastic barrettes shaped like small white daisies in her hair, and is barefoot despite the cold. Decide that in the morning you will go to a nursery to buy some flowers for your front porch.


(That night, you dream you are somehow

smaller than the smallest seed;

floating in a baroque velvety darkness.)


Arrive just as the nursery is opening. Feel the crunch of gravel underneath your boots as you walk up and down the aisles. Fondly touch an Asplenium bulbiferum, as you walk away from the shade-loving plants section, and into the bright sunlight. The air is still cold, and most plants this early in the season are still cuttings in their pots, with only small tags staked in their soil announcing their plant potential. Look for something in bloom, even if it has been forced indoors. Stop in the row of Tulipa, where a multitude of varieties crowd the shelves like an aisle full of children’s toys. Run your fingers across the tops of some of the tightly closed perianths. Feel their cold, waxy petals, and rubbery leaves. Observe how they look so different at this stage in life, so innocently compact and clean, and nothing like their last moments: inflorescence like tongues lolling open in askance, as if they’d experienced some kind of Shakespearean betrayal.

Be looking without seeing when you hear his voice.

“I always liked the name of those,” he will say. “Queen of the Night.”

His voice is smooth and beautiful and tenor. You will look down and realize you are touching a cultivar of Tulipa that is the color of ink. Look up, and see eyes the color of soil.

It makes sense that this is how you meet.


Make plans with him that involve sitting in parks drinking rosé. Admire how graceful his mannerisms are, how he nervously moves his dark hair off his face when he talks; how he leans back, clasping his hands around his knee, as he describes himself to you as sensitive and artistic. More specifically, he will describe himself to you as: “a lesbian couple rolled into one person.”


The earth cracks open like an egg. The landscape is deliquescent and murmurous with blooms. Spot Narcissus jonquilla, with their yellow corollas like trumpets, announcing their own homecoming, or the abundance of Anemone coronaria, tumbled and crumpled like crêpe paper crinolines. Spires of Digitalis purpurea rise, oppressive at shoulder height, while chains of Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ gush bloodied sprays out of their chaste white lockets. Make note of the pale and pliant scents you stumble into like cobwebs:

1. Syringa vulgaris

2. Daphne odora

3. Heliotropium arborescens

4. Lathyrus odoratus

5. Brugmansa x cubensis ‘Charles Grimaldi”

6. Styrax japonicus

7. Gardenia jasminoides

8. Clematis terniflora

9. Convallaria majalis


One weekend, he will take you to a large, garden estate, far out of the city. The sky will be overcast. A procession of geese will fly overhead keening of their displacement. He will point out chalky Malus sylvestrus blossoms; Hamamelis vernalis branches studded with jaundiced buds, and Magnolia stellata blooms white as ash. Walking along the ponds, you will hear salamanders slipping into the safety of murky water. The freckled, glaucous and powdery, greenish-blue faces of the Hellebores orientalis wink at you from beneath the shade. White lanterns of the native Trillium grandiflorum, with their chthonic lure, beckon for you to walk off path, and deeper into the woods. He will show you what a Paulownia tomentosa looks like in bloom; its flowers like a vigil of purple flames, and you will wonder how you have never noticed them before.


Watch his exquisite profile in the firelight as he pulls out his phone and looks down at a list, —another list. As he turns to you, notice the purple wine stains on his teeth, the way his lips curl upwards; the way his eyes have lost their balance.
“I added your name to my list,” he says, as he flashes the screen of his phone at you.
It’s a list, ––his list, of all the women he’s ever slept with.
Heed the blood surging in your neck.
Fall silent.

Sickly, he goes to slide his phone back into his pocket, but in his clumsiness, he misses his pocket completely. Without noticing, he goes back to staring into the fire. Strain your eyes. There it is, his list lying open, illuminated beside his pocket. And there they are: each name numbered one through twenty-three on his list, and most labeled with a small descriptor beside their name, such as:

“Fez / Ferret.”

“Skinny, mean girl.”

“Hippie / Mollescum.”

“Not as skinny and cute as hoped.”

“Dated while dating Hattie.”

“Skinny awkward cellist.”


“Daughter / great laugh.”

“Soul night / French living parents.”

Spot your name next to the number twenty-three at the bottom of the list. Your name is misspelled, and just as you strain your eyes to read the descriptor next to your misspelled name, his screen goes dark. Gaze back with him into the flames.


Get dressed and walk out, forever. Walk home. Notice how the Tulipa have all wilted and retreated back down to the soil. In their place, the ghostly heads of Iris sibirica rise up; their petals are badly battered and bruised from the afternoon rains. They are spilled over one another, and regard you from the mud with their blackened eyes.

Think of how many daughters have been named Iris.

Sol Paz Kistler lives in Kealakekua, HI. 
@solpazk (instagram) / @solpazkistler (twitter)