Saturday, February 28, 2009

The True Herald of Spring

He was the legendary harbinger of Springtime. everything a Robin should be, sitting fat and cocky atop my back garden gate, fully aware of his beauty as he turned his perfect head this way and that as if to give God Himself the opportunity to appreciate him in his best light. Impressive, yes.... a handsome creature to be sure, but alas, he could tell me nothing.

I look up, up and notice how the ancient oaks and poplars now appear pale-green, dandelion-fuzzy in the penthouse levels of their skyscraper dizziness. I have seen the smiling saffron faces of the daffodils as they wave to me each morning when I tie back the lace curtains over the windowseat. I have even spied a bunny in the moonlight. But delightful as they are, and try as they might, they have no real news to give.

The Arthur Rackham calendar on my office wall quite confidently declares that Spring will arrive during the month that begins tomorrow, but it is laughable to believe it. For the seasons pay no heed to the calendars of men; give no credence to his schedules or his expectations. They run a celestial relay all their own, handing over armloads of lovely hours to their successors when they alone decide the time is right. It is pure folly to think it will be on the same day each year.

One must watch carefully, must always pay attention, for the true herald of Spring is found in neither flora nor fauna but rather in a certain ephemeral, almost invisible, quality of light. It can appear on the coldest hour of a March afternoon, or as late as an April dawn, but if one is watching closely, one will see. The sharpness of the clean winter light will have melted round the edges, become more watery somehow, more suitable for the quiet illumination of a rose. Then and only then will Spring be here.

I once returned in April from a ten day trip out of the country. As I sat down my bags and walked into the kitchen, I could see it clearly. The light had changed. It was a languid light now that floated through the house like an etude, no longer the crisp light of Winter that had pierced my windowpanes just the week before. Spring had arrived and I had missed it. I resolved to never let that happen again.
So, I am watching.
Are you?

A Light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

Emily Dickinson

Painting: Spring, 1913
by Eric Harald Macbeth Robertson