Monday, March 02, 2009

Frustrated Intentions

     Every winter, at least from the start of February, when the days start to lengthen, I state with firm and sacred resolve: No, decidedly I will not let this year get by, and when it comes I will illuminate is as I should—from up close, attentively and deductively. I will take a certain stick or branch, measure out a square meter of earth and pay attention to how spring is made. I will study the first moist and crisp little balls as they form into the first buds, I will watch the bud to see its gradual growth, its hairy or sticky surface, its sudden swelling; I will have to be there when it finally opens (with a weak little sigh) and the pale edge of the first leaf comes out, as it unfolds in little wrinkles like a newborn, until the composed fans of the leaves begin to open and stretch out until proper leaves are made of them, and there, then there will be a green bush in the place of a place of bare twigs, and I will know it detail how it has happened. Yes, decidedly I will do so. And as I sit on my heels and look at my square meter of earth: suddenly a little pebble gets pushed aside and a tiny finger pushes up, and I watch as the first fresh blade of grass crawls up, such a thin and happy little thing, soaring up and beginning to stretch; I’ll watch its little siblings, I’ll count them and there will not be a single one which I have not assisted in its marvelous birth. Maybe my clay will even produce a strange little bulb which spreads and swells into a proper thing right under my eyes; maybe a crocus will come out of it or a coltsfoot or some hitherto unknown flower which I will discover and attach my name to. Maybe a pair of birds will alight on my little enclosure and show me how eggs are made. In short, I definitely won’t let this year just go by; I’ll catch spring in flagrante, I’ll hold it right in my hand, right in my palm to see how it’s done and to make sure there’s no fakery, no scam, no trick to it; I’ll track it, control it, watch it, check up on it, stare at it, test it and watch it and I won’t let anything get by me this year.

     Yes, I pass every winter with the same firm and worthless resolution. Then come the days when the sun starts to shine again, the ice melts and the gulls fly back, and then I decide that this day or the next I will begin to carry out my plan. And listen, it is so beautiful when the blue sky comes back and all of that. Grandmothers on the street selling violets and primroses, a man gets the urge to take a willow switch and chase the women around1; my God, I’ll just set this little bit of work aside and moonlight a bit, go on a visit, dispense these two social obligations, and just get this letter out, and then I’ll be alone with spring and go have a look at how it’s really done. And do you know what? Today I won’t a single one of these tasks or obligations today, even if they’re dragging me off—today I have to go see if spring has started.

     And for the love of God, it’s all over already! The bushes are green, there are already blooms in the young grass, and we can already sit in the shade of the first cherries, wiping our brow, and decide to go for ice cream. Wait, the cherries are already gone? Then give me the autumn plums instead, even autumn is beautiful and there’s much left to enjoy… but what? Friend, where has the time gone? It is December already, the heat is on inside, you already feel a year older; you had to make it all good again next year, and when the beginning of February comes, you must again resolve not to let it get away from you. But be careful that this spring doesn’t pass you by in a gust of wind, doesn’t sneak around you and dash on by. Be very, very careful next year!

1922

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1 [Yes, this is actually a Czech Easter tradition. Relevant quote:

"Another popular pagan tradition surviving to these days is the whipping of women and girls. The whip or “pomlázka” is braided from three or more willow rods. Pagan Slavs believed that whipping brought good luck, wealth and a rich harvest for the whole year. The strength and vitality of young twigs was supposed to be transferred onto the person whipped. I suspect that in these days, men don’t have a clue about the metaphysical meaning of this tradition; they simply enjoyed the opportunity to chase the village girls and have some fun."]

1 comment:

Wendy Whaples Scully said...

This reminds me of the determination you had as a lad on Crombie Street. Convincing the girls to help you gather seedlings to save them from inevitable destruction...only to learn they were weed trees and nobody cared....