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The Joys of Spring

It's a fine, sunny morning with a lingering chill in the air, the gift of Canada this late day in spring. The towns are all coming awake like bears after a long, dreary hibernation under the snow and the icy winds. Trees are dancing in the woods, showing off their new spring foliage. Birds can't stop crooning about love and desire from every branch, and the girl birds are all noticing the attention. It's that time of year, and everyone is looking toward the fragrant promises of summer. Only the hills keep their stoic composure as the human spirit jubilates over one fantasy after another of what the season might bring.

Some people have dragged out old furniture and quilts, granny's rocker that had gathering dust in a corner of the basement, maybe an old-time mixer or a window fan, for sale to passing motorists. Piles of forlorn relics lie there in the sun like old folks at the beach. A few inflated pools are set up in the side yard for toddlers, who have yet to brave the sting of cold tap water. A dog shakes off excess water from his fur after taking a brief dip. No one was watching as he sneaked a preview of the coming days of hot weather. Even the cat has dipped a paw in the tremors of a bird bath and decided moisture was not his thing. He slinks away to his look out under the privet hedge to wait for some unwary bird to land in search of a worm. He'll be disappointed, I'm afraid. A boy with mower and gas can goes around knocking on doors to drum up a little business. He's the only one of his gang enterprising enough or has spent his allowance already on movies and a burger or two. I've been there and remember well the sweat tickling the base of my neck as I bullied my machine into the high weeds of a neighbor's yard. I wish I could hire the kid, but the man down the road does all our cutting each summer.

Used to be the breadwinner would be out simonizing his car on Saturday, with his pouting five year old standing there with a soapy rag, unwilling to get wet scrubbing the hub caps. But he drives to the car wash now, and nibbles on a candy bar watching a team of lanky teen agers go over his gleaming sedan with sopping sponges. The house is quiet, bathed in early morning shadows, while a woman plies her broom to the dog fur clinging to a throw rug. All that is missing is the sound of a baseball game on the radio, but those days are gone. Rock music tinkles in a bedroom upstairs where a girl sits combing her hair and giggling on the phone.

I may not want my youth back now that I am partially fossilized in old age. I don't envy the girl who is trying to imagine a date with someone named Jerry, who is sure to be class valedictorian next year. He talks funny, has a pronounced Adam's apple, the traces of a mild case of acne that he sometimes picks at with a finger whose nail he has bitten down to the quick. It might be this hand that will try to hold hers at the movie theater, and she must decide if that is tolerable. She feels the cold blue neon light on her skin as they sit at the burger drive-in swallowing down fries and a burger loaded with sauce and pickle relish. Girls know how to eat without spilling their food, but guys are naturally piggish and end up with two or three meat stains on their crisp new shirts. So much for the magic of a first date.

The galaxy spreads out above them in a serene display of timeless ecstasy. Nothing matters on the planet below, not even the peals of laughter coming out of the dark of a suburban yard, where a can of beer has been passing from hand to hand. Tomorrow is far off, as distant as another year. Tonight is the romantic constant of teen lust and anxiety. The rumble of a motorcycle sends chills down their spines as a huge chrome and metallic blue shape slides by with two rough looking bikers gazing at each car window as they pass. This magic is all that remains of a 17th century baroque fantasy, the swirling abundance of nature pushed to some orgasmic crescendo in a Viennese altar piece.

It's hard to think that one's parents may have passed through these pillars of Hercules at one time in their puberty, throbbing with desire, choked up at a first kiss, sweaty hands reaching for each other's fingers as tongue-tied faces stared at each other. But then we wouldn't be around if they hadn't. But I can almost hear my father whisper how he loves her smell, her black hair, her long fingers, the sound of her breath after kissing. He had a touch of the poet in him and my mother would swoon as the syllables eased from his lips like a song. She would coo and nestle and smell the lingering traces of his shaving cream, and put her hand on his chest. They would drift off down the long river of a moon beam and reluctantly turn the imaginary boat around to come home again, with a mother waiting at the door for my mother's footsteps.

I don't need to wait around to know how things turned out. I just hear the trolley crank to a reluctant start and for a front door to slam with my grandfather's gravelly voice speaking tensely to my mother. Then the hallway light to go out, and the floor boards creak as the night began to fragment into stars and fire flies and the music of a milk truck stopping to unload a few quarts into the milk box on the stoop. The earth's an old mill stone grinding away corn into flour, turning the idle darkness into food to nourish dreams. Each generation comes of age believing their time is unique, that no one can understand their joy, their pain, their worries about the impending future. John Locke was right -- we come into the world with a blank slate on which the earth delicately inscribes a language onto our souls, as if for the first time. Each of us carries inside us a Rosetta stone of partially translated language, and we spend a life time deciphering the parts we don't understand. I'm working on a final passage, half of it still locked up in hieroglyphs.

Delicious weather in May, when the gardens are enjoying a renaissance of blooming genius. The apple trees nearly floated on the air with all their tiny pink balloons buoying them up. Tulips abound, like goblets waiting for the sommelier to come around with his newly uncorked bottle of Petrus. Daisies are still dancing in the lee side of my hill, but by now the irises are a bit droopy. A lovely, jewel-backed toad hopped in front of me but was too lazy to conceal his legs. He just sat there under a dark green leaf as if it were spell cast by a wizard. I could have picked him up, but I didn't want to spoil the effortless joy of spring. So I passed along, and left behind me a profound sense of peace. There is so much density to pleasure, you can almost feel the heft of it pulsing through your veins. The cold is gone; the blue skin of shivering has become the blush of youth on your arms. You are as free as the cries of school kids playing tether ball at recess. Not even a teacher with a voice like a crow can darken the deep gold light that falls over them. The school is a vast shadow moving slowly away from their bodies as they grow and find their balance, and the ball that comes around is not a pendulum but a mere whim sailing through the air. I join their laughter as I pass in the car.

It's good to give thanks for something as common and every-day as the weather. But I'm grateful that I am not moping in a cold hallway, my cup of coffee turned to mud and the pancake I made for myself is not just sitting uneaten in a dish on the counter. It had become sodden and as cold as swamp mud. I would rather smell the boiling water where two brown eggs were tumbling in a foaming rapids. They were headed out to sea, I think, but I could smell their breath, the sea brine on their lips, the playful, flirtatious way that eggs dance in the waters of oblivion. I have often stood in fascination at my mother's elbow as she put eggs in a bowl and made them cluck like chicken as they rattled around. There was nothing moody or fretful about them; the long morning shadows did not prevent them from frolicking in a plain, ordinary bowl awaiting the crack and the sizzle of a frying pan. They were just happy to be eggs. And I am happy to be mortal on this fragile, evaporating hour of the season.


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