I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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You were going, you were going and the tension seemed to build. So I refused to think. Didn’t let a thought come in, and then it was alright. One day, you’d just be gone. Gone. Boom, like that. Why not?
It is winter. Everything is frozen. Gray and dead. Of course it is. What better time to leave?
I’ve taken you to the airport just about every winter since we met. And now, you go again.
But then the sun came out, the winter sun. It shined so brightly. You know how. On the ice and the twigs, everything is light and sparkling. Life becomes organic crystal, and the windows of my room enclose me in a bubble, separating inside-outside. I place my hand against the glass and float into the woods. I hear the water’s melting, the deva’s play, and finally, God Almighty’s rolling laughter.
Yes. Yes. It all says, “Yes.” A winter day thawing in the sunshine confirms life’s unity, a unity sprouting mossy villi of diversity. Water is trickling somewhere over roots and rocks. A million fiddlers play, and this tune is called Spring.
There is a poem by Theodore Roethke — he’s been called a bear of a man, the type of man I like. Your brother’s one, so is the printer’s son. I always want to hug them, hold them close and warm. My Pop is like that too, safe and firm pot belly. But, I was talking of poems, not men . . . but oh, men and poems are intertwined. Smile, will you, just a moment. You know how I wander off.
Well, my files can’t produce that poem. So let me offer other words, perhaps the actual historic source.
The Sun! The Sun! And all we can become!
And the time ripe for running to the moon!
In the fields, I leave my father’s eye;
And shake the secrets from my deepest bones;
My spirit rises with the rising wind;
I’m thick with leaves and tender as the dove,
I take liberties a short life permits —
I seek my own meekness;
I recover my tenderness by long looking.
By midnight I love everything alive.
Who took the darkness from the air?
I’m wet with another life.
Yea , I have gone and stayed.
Yes. You will go, yet stay, because love can do such things. The sun, the sun, and all we can become!
Roethke also wrote a slimy little poem which smells of peat on the forest floor where I once tiptoed in the fog at another winter juncture. Remember? All the acorns sprouting white and pink, while whispers had it naked men darted from bush to bush. There are songs from those woods, English ales, bagpipes and hunts.
Roethke looked at life as closely as I sometimes do, when you slap my enthusiasm, tell me, “Quit.”
I study the lives on a leaf: the little
Sleepers, numb nudgers in cold dimensions
Beetles in caves, newts, stonedeaf fishes,
Lice tethered to long limp subterranean weeds,
Squirmers in bogs,
and bacterial creepers . . .
January warmed and one deep draught of air brought knowledge of all this. Premonition, deja vu.
There is a day in winter when warmth and wetness first come together perfectly. It is Spring, though no calender admits it. There is a surging up. And it always seems a Sunday. When I was a kid, the day always arrived after Church. Then I’d announce to everyone, “I have to dig a garden. I’m gonna dig a garden!” And I’d scramble to change clothes.
Everyone thought the day just fine. But they didn’t seem to share my need to turn the soil, to feel it crumble in my hands, spike it once or twice, the lumps, spread it over smooth, feel it live, let it permeate my soul. I had to dig that garden, and later I would write, “There is a sanity in soil.”
Sanity/insanity. I have to smile. How adults can complicate, when all life lies waiting in the ground.
I recall another day, your first winter here, when formality still had us at some distance. It was “The Day” and I didn’t have a place to dig. So I hit the city for release. You wouldn’t come along, which left me entertaining on my own, and headed for a bookstore. Not the one you know me for, but another with hard cover stiffs and university ties. Things are older there and mustier. There I found Collis’ book with autographed inscription and woodcut pictures. It was called Behind the Plough and I took it with me up a hill to a stand of tall Loblollies and lay down on the pine straw with a blanket and little Henry. He stayed there quietly with eyes half closed enjoying quick doggy breaths. Ah, to have his nose the day Spring is announced by elves and moister creatures. I read myself into a world long passed by history, a world of English orchards, rolling meadows and warm piles of new hay.
All this came to mind the moment the sun began to warm and turning to you I burst out awkwardly, “Oh! Don’t be gone for Spring.”
But startled, you got peeved. “Spring? I won’t be gone that long!” I know. You saw dogwood blossoms lining Peachtree. But that is Spring at forty years. I want you here for springtime’s birth, the wetness of the birthing, when life more ancient than our own reemerges and is held within our hands. Somehow we are parents then delivering its delicately curved body. We hear its first gurgling breaths.
Now again, I have to smile. Philosophic unities draw me clear around, for this writing has taken me past midnight. It’s now the 29th, your birthday. You are 33, almost old as dogwood-blossomed Spring. And the man I saw you with last night said that you were panicked over reduced reproductive years. I thought him crass, still do. But maybe it’s my fault. Forget the symmetry. Unity from intellectualizing is never quite as warm, or true, as one fresh handful of soil.
And oh! I have neglected the point I meant to tell. Last Sunday was the day. We went to the park with everyone. There was music and crowds uncrowded in their sharing of delight, a city people synchronized with nature. We roller skated. You whipped around and up and down. Andrea pushed her baby stroller and my back is still slipped out. But we had our day. I meant to tell you that. Maybe I’ll remember, tomorrow, when I take you to the airport.