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Meditations on Spring
A bouquet of poems and pictures for the equinox.
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For a time it felt like spring would never arrive.
Ontario, where I’m writing from, saw the darkest winter in eighty years. There were two straight weeks in January where the sun did not appear at all. I remember the day when it finally broke through the clouds. I was crossing a bridge, and tilted my face up to greet it, laughing with a deranged glee that belonged to someone who had reached oasis after miles of desert. It almost felt like I could cup my hands and drink it, the sunshine. Now the days are getting longer, the snow is melting—Winter collapses in slack folds around my feet, Margaret Atwood writes in the poem Spring Again from her collection Power Politics—and depending on where you are, you will soon begin to notice the crocuses pushing their heads up from underground, the snowdrops and the neon racket of hyacinth.
There is something endlessly thrilling about spring and its chaos, which—as Edna St. Vincent Millay so cleverly put it—comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
As a child I saw this season as a time of exploration. I remember watching The Secret Garden and once it was over, promptly heading outside, rain or shine, to dig through the gardens to get nose-to-nose with the newly bloomed tulips which were so grand I could fit my entire face into their petals, immerse myself in a private world of yellow and red, come out with a dusting of pollen on my nose. Today I read a quote from a letter Katherine Mansfield wrote, where she says “Besides, it is spring. The beautiful forces of nature refuse to remain silent and I feel like observing everything.” In Upstream, Mary Oliver writes: “Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness.” I wonder if this urgent need to return to the wilderness after a long winter is something you can relate to?
Spring is a time of close-ups. I still watch The Secret Garden as a spring ritual and go for nature walks immediately after. Inevitably I will find myself loitering beneath an umbrella of blossoms, the apple trees alive with bees and color I can’t turn away from. The magnolias are of course always a highlight, but my favorite is driving out to the country, to the area where I grew up, and seeing what my mother refers to as the green tinge, when the saturated fields and forests are coming alive. From afar it looks like a shy green fuzz on the trees, a blur from the car. In my recent story, You Will Be Happy Here, the narrator observes the transition of seasons from the rural property she has moved to following her husband’s murder trial:
Winter turned to something else. Trees stood bare, erect, skeletal. Sometimes I thought it was embarrassing to see the world like that, stark and semi-dressed, like it wasn’t ready to be looked at. I felt like a voyeur on the edge of my property, on solemn nameless, numberless afternoons without him, watching the buds rattle. Eventually the blossoms came, piercing through like swords of sore beauty.
The colors at the end of March, beginning of April are vivid and fleeting (spring colors are never the same as summer colors). The world smells of dirt. Each flower takes its turn. You can pick, press, or cut and adore them, but spring is ultimately about celebrating the ephemeral. Nothing ever looks as good as it does when it’s growing on a branch or sprouting from the ground. Spring leaves an echo in the heart. The world is coming alive again.
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