Saturday, March 07, 2009

Spring and Memory

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway begins his narrative in the spring, a season that has him feeling as though everything of moment is just over the horizon; a season which makes him feel both nostalgic and hopeful for the future, and gives him "that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."

Nick's description, for me, is one of the most authentic things about that book, and it is reinforced for me every spring: the moment I smell that damp earth and plants start to nose through the gray snow in my back garden, I understand again just what Nick meant. Spring taps something in the DNA and resurrects the belief in resurrection.

Every writer and poet has contemplated the power of spring at one point or another. One of my favorite pieces was written by a man I discussed just days ago--Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote "Spring Carol" and "Spring Song," but the loveliest ode to spring, I think is this one:

Flower God, God of the Spring

by Robert Louis Stevenson

"Flower god, god of the spring, beautiful, bountiful,
Cold-dyed shield in the sky, lover of versicles,
Here I wander in April
Cold, grey-headed; and still to my
Heart, Spring comes with a bound, Spring the deliverer,
Spring, song-leader in woods, chorally resonant;
Spring, flower-planter in meadows,
Child-conductor in willowy
Fields deep dotted with bloom, daisies and crocuses:
Here that child from his heart drinks of eternity:
O child, happy are children!
She still smiles on their innocence,
She, dear mother in God, fostering violets,
Fills earth full of her scents, voices and violins:
Thus one cunning in music
Wakes old chords in the memory:
Thus fair earth in the Spring leads her performances.
One more touch of the bow, smell of the virginal
Green - one more, and my bosom
Feels new life with an ecstasy."

It's those "chords in the memory" that Friday's mild weather has awakened, although they've stopped vibrating with the weekend's cold rain. Still, I can feel spring coming at the end of the tunnel, and bubbles of euphoria are rising to the surface.

It's the reason people take spring breaks or earn titles like "spring fool." Spring triggers both a biological and a psychological response, and even looking at a spring flower makes something loosen inside me.

What happy things are you planning to celebrate spring?

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