Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crocus sirens

Ecclesiastes 11.1
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....


John Spencer said...

I made the mistake this evening of asking Joel if he was making dirt.

"I'm making dust," he tells me.

"Dirt is made from things that die and from poop and from rocks when they die."

I was struck by the efortlessness of dirt and flowers and orange trees. The blossoms are exploding like crazy with a perfume heavier than an old lady in church . . . but a million times nicer to the olfactory system.

When the boys go to sleep Christy and I might take advantage of one of the few nights left when we can walk out and it's still cool enough that it's refreshing. We'll smell the orange blossoms and we'll stand barefoot on the dirt and if we're lucky we'll remember that none of this was our own doing.

John Spencer said...

Incidentally, this was one of those blog posts that led me into writing one of my own.

If you ever write your own "Walden Pond," I'll buy the first copy.

Kate said...

Today is the first day it has really felt like Spring is planning on sticking around.
@John - so to Walden - "Near at hand...sings the brown thrasher all the morning, glad of your society, that would find out another farmer's field if yours were not here. While you are planting the seed, he cries — 'Drop it, drop it — cover it up, cover it up — pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.'"

Though I prefer Aldo Leopold in these parts:
"Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one." Because although I love my garden, I am really just a clodhopper that says - Let there be lettuce.

doyle said...

Dear John,

As always, thanks for the warm words, and for your wonderful stories. Some day, before I die, I'd like to wander around orange blossoms.

I do not have the patience to write books (though I am very glad that you do). According to the USPS, your book will be arriving at my doorstep on Saturday--can't wait!

Dear Kate,

I love Leopold--"let there be lettuce" indeed.

lucychili said...

found this word today: virescent