Wednesday, April 14, 2021
I probably spent too many years teaching English and as a result my brain is stuffed with poetry—lines, stanzas, entire poems. At times these swim up to the conscious level and bounce around like higher quality earworms. But it certainly seems preferable to have a Shakespearian sonnet on a cerebral continuous loop than, say, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
I’m mentioning this because at the beginning of the month when I flipped the page in my desk calendar, there was the word “April,” and immediately the first line of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” popped into my head: “April is the cruellest month.” While for most of us the spring season brings feelings of hope and new possibilities, it appears that for Eliot these will be dashed hopes and unfulfilled possibilities.
Well, yeah, I guess that’s one way to look at it, Mr. Gloomyboots, but I think I’ll keep company instead with e.e. cummings, who saw the beginning of spring as “puddle-wonderful” and “mud-lucious.” He cheerfully welcomed back the balloon man and delighted in the exuberance of children romping about outdoors.
Spring is looking pretty good to me this year, certainly a lot better than last year when the world was shutting down, there was a lot of confusion about COVID, and we had an idiot for a president. Now sanity has returned to the White House, people are getting vaccinated, and kids are returning to classrooms. If we can just behave responsibly (admittedly this is a very big if), before long this pandemic might be behind us, fading into an unpleasant memory.
Yep, I’m feeling pretty upbeat these days. I think Billy Collins in his poem “Today” best captures my springtime mood. Collins marvels at a spring day so glorious that “you felt like taking / a hammer to the glass paperweight / on the living room end table, / releasing the inhabitants / from their snow-covered cottage / so they could walk out, / holding hands and squinting / into this larger dome of blue and white.”
I can identify with the little figures being set free. For a year I, along with millions of others, have been living in a world as confining as a tabletop snow globe, moving about sluggishly beneath a smaller sky. But now word comes that if we can just continue to be careful, just be patient, the invisible globe will shatter and we can once again move freely into a larger, brighter world.
I’m looking out the window now at a ninebark shrub that I planted years ago, purchased in a half-gallon pot at a native plant sale. It’s now 10 feet high and almost as wide and sprinkled with the first green leaves of spring. It looks illuminated from within, bringing to mind D.H. Lawrence’s lines “I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration / Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze / Of growing.” And then Marge Piercy joins in with “The green will never / again be so green, so purely and lushly /new.”
In the afternoon I walk down to Fairhaven, where people are out and about again. The Colophon Cafe is doing a lively business at the outdoor tables. People are visiting in the Village Green, enjoying the sun. Most of them, I’m happy to note, are wearing masks and keeping a little distance.
I pass through Marine Park, which is also attracting sun worshipers today, making my way over to Post Point, where the herons have returned for another season. They are spectacular creatures, and seeing so many of them congregating here is breathtaking. The sight is also inspirational. Back in 2004 the Bellingham City Council, motivated by local activists, stopped a developer whose plans for luxury condos would most likely have doomed this local treasure. It was a golden moment.
The herons build their nests high, and the skyline is dominated by them. They sit, these majestic birds with their sleek heads and long graceful necks, surveying their kingdom. Watching them now, feeling the sun on my face, inhaling the fragrance of the bay, I understand how James Wright must have felt in his poem “A Blessing.” Standing in a pasture on a late spring afternoon, Wright watches two beautiful ponies grazing. One of them walks over to him and nuzzles his hand. Everything about the moment is so perfect that Wright says, “if I stepped out of my body I would break / Into blossom.”