March 2, 2011 § 15 Comments
With few exceptions, like the flaming reds of the Bradford Pears (natives of China and Korea), and the bright yellows of our native dogwoods, leaves become mottled, like the backs of an old man’s hands, and then fall. This quiet dimming of the colors makes our winter more like a prolonged Autumn.
But this Winter, an unusually hard one, has been worthy of the name. The collards and kale in our Winter garden have grown little, their leaves held close as if the plants were trying to stay warm. Feeling sorry for them, we haven’t eaten many greens.
Heating our house we’ve gone through an unprecedented four cords of wood. Again and again the bird bath has frozen solid. Starting tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds for the summer garden has been an act of faith. We have been bone-cold for so long I had begun to lose hope that Spring would ever come.
Then last week, as if a switch had been thrown, it did. Unlike the drawn-out unfolding of Fall, Spring is a sudden season here in the south. Robins pour through my neighborhood. Mating hawks tumble free-fall from the sky. As they do every spring, violets carpet the shoulder of the road in front of my neighbor Becky’s house. The narcissus have come and gone in a handful of days.
It was Spring that took its time.
Desperate to reach the end of winter, my mother would send my sister, brother and me out to look for it. She set a bounty for the first violet, the first robin. The prize for each was a cake. The first violet had to be picked and turned in as proof. For the first robin we just had to say we’d seen one. My siblings and I were highly skeptical of each other’s sightings, but my mother staunchly believed us. For claiming to see something we were pretty sure had a red breast she would bake us the cake of our choice.
Daffodils followed, and forsythia (our yard was guarded by a forsythia hedge that stood at least eight feet high). Spring brought new Easter outfits which always included a ridiculous pastel straw hat (hats were still mandatory in the Catholic Church) and the first taste of chocolate after the long season of giving-it-up for Lent.
Here, the stately procession of spring is more like a quick sprint. As I sit at this computer I have to remind myself, go outside, quit being a clock-driven human. There may be no cake for the first violet anymore, but this year in particular, we have earned the violets, the chatter of robins, the forgotten warmth of sun on skin.
The season will not wait for us to have the time to visit it. A long hot summer is already treading on its heels. Quick, open your door.
Do it right now.
My poem, “Spring” was published in Princeton High School’s literary magazine, “The Rag,” when I was a Sophomore.
At the time I was under the poetic influence of e.e. cummings.
Click on the poem if you would like to enlarge and read it.
Meanwhile, here is the original e.e., making poetry out of the same scrap of green:
Spring is like a perhaps hand (which comes carefully out of Nowhere)arranging a window,into which people look(while people stare arranging and changing placing carefully there a strange thing and a known thing here)and changing everything carefully spring is like a perhaps Hand in a window (carefully to and from moving New and Old things,while people stare carefully moving a perhaps fraction of flower here placing an inch of air there)and without breaking anything. e.e.cummings