Sunday, March 28, 2010
Suddenly almost without warning it is spring.
After interminable weekends when the snow hung around, a dirty and unwelcome guest at a wake, the skies are an eggshell blue and the trees have burst into a million pastel blossoms.
Spring can be kind to the most inhospitable of vistas. Even in the ugliest parts of Tidewater where acres of concrete strip malls rot away in a careless 1970s timewarp, the presence of a tree full of white blossom can soften the scene.
The meanest of shotgun shacks is elvated to something more noble by a cathedral of soaring whineness in the form of a cherry blossom in the front yard.
But inevitably my thoughts turn to England, not the streets crammed full of grimy back-to-back terraces and the rumble of the nearby Tube line but the open hills and Dales.
I think of that time in Pately Bridge when we drove into the small village in the Dales to see the streams choked with daffodils and high cirrus clouds like vapour trails in the sky.
And another year we climbed the high fells over the grave, gray mirror of Ullswater in the Lake District where Wordsworth wandered loney as a cloud and was moved by a host of daffodils as numerous as the stars in the Milky Way.
But maybe the last word on spring should go to Gerard Manley Holpkins, a priest whose life was often as lonely at Wordsworth's clouds.
I can still imagine him in a country churchyard at Easter recalling the miraculous day the stone was moved from the tomb and Jesus had risen from the dead.
Perhaps because we painted eggs at Sunday School when the read the Easter story, I can never associate the Resurrection with the stoney and arid deserts beyond Jerusalem. Rather it took place on a spring day when the clouds moved in and out of the sun flitting its rays on the verdant English hillside; as if Jerusalem was built in England's green and pleasant land.
And Hopkins was with his flock but apart from it, forever a stranger, locked in his own thoughts and reveries.
Still, when he wrote his sprung ryhthm, he gave a motion and a vibrancy to nature that he often failed to find in his own life. His poem Spring is no exception.
"Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing."