The little yellow crocuses, the first to bloom each year, even as mounds of age old snow still loomed over the yard, are shrinking back into their nest behind the bit of granite around which I planted them years and years ago. They are free of any care about the weather, I always think when I see them each spring, and brave. I noticed their final few as I came down the stairs a while ago.
The cat, our neighbor’s cat a few houses in some direction from us: the cat of smoky gold color and imperial hauteur (I think it kind of funny that a guy like me uses a phrase like that) strolled across the backyard just now at 7ish in the morning, the first time I’d seen it in months. At the top of our little hill back there he paused in leonine majesty looking back along his track, around at his rule. He made a feint in the direction of a small bird, a titmouse or chickadee on the neighbor’s fence. It scooted quickly into a nearby tree. Then he stood as if waiting for a sculptor while thinking about a clever spot to put his monument. He’s been at this for about ten years now, and I begin to wonder who will see the end of Spring’s coming first; him or me.
I left my post at the door to our little deck outside, now free of snow for the last few days, the first time since October, and went looking for a camera; the living portrait on the hill to memorialize. He was gone when I returned a few seconds later. He’ll be back as soon as tomorrow. I’ll be waiting, then.
Cat gone, the young flowers just blooming on the hill caught my eye. We saw our first daffodil yesterday away over in the corner near the flat topped umbrella shaped sassafras tree and our volunteer crab apple. It’s still there piping a high clear golden note among the dull gray drone of unraked leaves. And the hyacinths that I planted last spring are little blue fountains on the slope. They were a gift from the sacristan at St. John XXIII. “Take them,” she said, “no one will miss them. It makes me sad to see them dumped in some bin somewhere.” I was happy for the offer, and happier still that they’ve taken to their new home. We are becoming friends. Their cousins, the little Grape Hyacinths have started many settlements over the years, and will soon appear. Our forsythia are on the way, and the lilacs have plans, too.
We’ve invited some friends from The Families of Nazareth over this Sunday to spend a little time with Cindy and Don as their First Anniversary rolls around. While I was looking at the forsythia at the corner of our deck I realized it would, no doubt, just be bursting into bloom when they walk through the door. If that is the case, I’ll march them right outside and let them be welcomed with the fanfare of flowers.
While I stood at the door thinking these thoughts in the fresh sunshine, I thought of how lately gone this time of day would have been buried in in deep shadow; or thick gray clouds would have shivered by. For a little more than half my life, now, I’ve watched through the door the year’s progress through the seasons. It’s become clear to me that time has been sped up, or been compressed somehow. Shorter is the length of each season, more quickly comes the next. It seems only a little while ago I shoveled a path through snow nearly to my waist from the back door to the bird feeders on the hill.
It will be a minute or two, I sometimes think, when I’ll be wiping the sweat from my eyes while I mow the lawn. Before then, though, we’ll have our annual visits from the Orioles…the birds, not the team. We’ll sit out front in the evening and chat with the neighbors walking by, pet their dogs, listen to the children playing, riding bikes or scooters; chasing balls or each other and sipping something cool; perhaps, even, an adult beverage in the blush of the setting sun.
April is not the cruelest month. Perhaps, instead, it is the most promising.
It’s an Interesting time of year, you know. There’s quite a lot going on. Here are some poems I wrote a while back about it:
IN MY GARDEN
The hardy crocus and brave daffodil
Push up their leaves and blossom
While all the other flowers still
Sleep deep in earth’s protective bosom.
They serve the waking world
With gentle colors and hues,
And, as the morning songs of birds
Sounds honey to my ears, they my eyes
Bathe in sweet reflected light.
I include them in my prayers
Smiling, since I know dear heaven’s
Is reached on just such petal covered
A REPLY TO MR. ELIOT
What does April breed
But hope born of Winter’s need;
Not violence assembled on the western edge
of comparison with November,
That gray and dreary month of
Tomb lids and tumbling night,
Of memory and desire.
April opens like a diamond
Scattering light, fanfares of color
At the retreating night,
Fills with swelling song choirs
of returning life to fight
Against the hostility of snow
Cold distance of constellations,
Banishes arrogance and death.
This month of better days plays
Silver showers and silky winds on my face,
Delights in testing trees, trains
Hills and plains for the rough rumble
Of summer thunder, the muscular
Beauty of being alive.
April, womb’s gate of the year,
Cruel only if life is cruel,
Witness of hope, generosity,
Dearly yearned for sufficiency,
Chrysalidal nugget, seed of joy,
You evidence heaven here and yet to be.
April 5, 2002
April Enters Softly
In no time at all the ground is cleared of snow
And long dead fallen leaves exposed, blown
Down the hill into deeper woods to grow
Silence in slim light where young deer nervous roam.
Softly April enters at hilltop, alone
Of all months in labor (at least here).
Gentle settling life on misty dawn
While infant blossoms waken shy and near.
One springs eternal now who died
Pregnant with salvation’s fruitful light
Sweet liquor streaming from his side
Fragrant grace incarnadine
This will quicken your pulse, and put a little Spring in your step! Turn up the sound: