Thursday, January 29, 2009


     It is true, they call spring enchanted, and no objections can be raised to that, as long as we mean it to praise these April mornings or May evenings when the lilacs and mock-oranges are in bloom. But if we take the term “enchantment” a bit more conscientiously, as it is defined in all the technical manuals (fairy tales, for example), enchantment depends on someone waving a magic wand or mumbling an incantation with the goal of creating a change in the immediate vicinity; and in the morning there is a glowing castle or uncrossable lake or some other unusual phenomenon of which there had not been the slightest suspicion before. True enchantment is never a gradual or patient process; rather, it happens with a sudden and surprising effect. To act slowly, painstakingly, to exert a great deal of time and work for something that was not there before, that is called creation; but the true and honorable enchanter just clicks the tongue or waves a wand, and it is done.

     There are no doubts that spring does not enchant in this strict sense of the word; the truth is we are never there when the first flower of the forsythia opens or the first March bud unfurls, but flower and leaf take their sweet time, and we must have an angelic patience with them. The grass does not grow overnight and the birch does not glitter with fair foliage between evening and night; it takes an awful lot of work before the thin sapling becomes the rustling crown. Everything has its long days and weeks of quiet preparation and imperceptible waxing of colors; and “enchanted spring” only suddenly occurs after a lot of hesitation and fuss.

     Winter works in other ways, and it does so according to all the classical formulas for enchantment. You wake up in the morning and have a look out the window, and suddenly where yesterday there was dark and hardened earth there is brilliantly white and fluffy snow; all at once the dirt of the whole world has transformed, it has a new pattern, new quiet, new structure—if someone had carried me off to Easter Island some Christmas Eve, it would not be such a vast change as when fresh snow has fallen.

     Or the frost comes on overnight, and in the space in which you had been accustomed to seeing your neighbor’s roof, silver ferns bristle and sparkling needles and white moss and fans of seaweed appear as frost flowers on the window pane. I say, let someone try to arouse in glass such interesting vegetation overnight! If this be enchantment, it is properly done, to contrive such an entirely new world.

     Or perhaps it is only hoarfrost; fallen in the harsh light of the moon, and now the whole world bristles in a terrible and sharp beauty and shines bleakly. What yesterday was a black and wiry tree is today an enormous tuft of marbled, shining coral; yesterday’s frightful and desolate thicket is now a wrought silver gate; the cobwebs on the old gazebo have turned into silver lace, the dried leaves are tassled with silver and the frozen asters on the lawn glitter like cut glass. Every pine or fir needle is marked with a glittering wand; the blackened leaves of the ivy are wreathed in silver filigree, the dry yarrow stalk bristles with the finest fringe of frost—and what can shall I say further, for you know it yourselves; you too have tried to lick the whitened branch and run your finger along the exceedingly beautiful tuftlets of frost. You too have seen the orchards bloom on Christmas morning with a frost so madly rich that no May can compare with its cherry trees and their fragrant blossoms; and you too have witnessed the sun shining through as the treetops rustle weakly, and the whole white show is gone: what to do, what to do, it is just enchantment, which never lasts. The truth is creation is a slow cooker, and no one will ever conjure anything like this by waving a magic wand, but it is, if we may say so, more solid and longer-lasting work.



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