We must cast our bread
Upon the waters, as the
Ancient preacher said,
Trusting that it may
Amply be restored to us
After many a day.
That old metaphor,
Drawn from rice farming on the
River’s flooded shore,
Helps us to believe
That it’s no great sin to give,
Hoping to receive.
Therefore I shall throw
Broken bread, this sullen day,
Out across the snow,
Betting crust and crumb
That birds will gather, and that
One more spring will come.Richard Wilbur, New Yorker, this week
The crocuses are blooming. Every year I cannot believe it will happen. Then it does.
Every year they have something to teach me, late winter, when the burst of life reminds me I will die, something worth remembering.
I lifted up an errant patio stone, looking for pill bugs ("roly polies") for biology class. Under it, a miracle.
Several crocuses had risen from the earth, as they do, but the leaves remained yellow--no sense spending a whole lot of energy on chloroplasts if no light is around. That they rose at all, hidden from the sun, weighted down by a stone, rivals anything we have done.
On top of the yellow stalks?
Flowers--riotously purple petals exploding from the ground, hidden by the rock, calling to bees like silent Sirens, hope against hope, burning energy from last summer's sun.
I can talk of auxins and gibberellins, reduce my crocuses to a mechanized world, and sniff the sniff of the cognoscenti.
Or I can sit and marvel at that which we cannot understand--fecundity's wasteful exuberance celebrated as the sun returns. A starling squallacked at me today; I could not grasp the words, but I felt the sound. The sun has returned, and it's OK to be drunk again. Drunk with light, with life.
I will die. So will you. The starling told me so.
I started planting tonight. It's the closest I feel like to God, closer than anything I ever felt in medicine. And, of course, it's ridiculous--I plant seeds, and they grow, but they will grow whether I intervene or not.
And the world will go on as well.
So what do we teach in biology? The gibberish of gibberellins? Do we speak of death?
At 15 years old, we all live forever. At 50, a moment's forever is all we got.
I forget this in January. Today I remembered it.
Not much else to say....