It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist
Today is the first day of spring. After weeks of beautiful weather, which confused the magnolia trees in our backyard, the temperature dropped to the low 60s and a light rain is descending. Back in Maine, my colleagues at our headquarters are hunkered in their homes, enduring a snow storm that is hugging the northern New England coast but should be tapering off today.
Regardless of the actual weather, spring is upon us. This past weekend, my son played in his first baseball tournament, which was held in Silicon Valley. His team, whom David manages, drew an eight in the morning Saturday game. It was cold, even as the team’s second game commenced after ten in the morning. I wore a scarf, sweater, and a leather jacket and my bottom half was wrapped in a baseball-motif blanket that my daughter had made for her brother for Christmas. I was still freezing. And then slowly the sun came out. By the time the game ended after noon, it seemed more like baseball weather and some of us discovered our faces had gotten a little sun burnt.
When we came home, I needed to give our dog Rex, who had been inside the house for hours, his daily walk. As we walked past tree after tree full of white and deep pink blossoms, and as I breathed in the pollen, which shortened my breath and made me wheeze, I thought to myself, spring has indeed arrived.
Memories of spring
When I think of spring, many images come to mind. Upon learning in the spring that I had gotten accepted to UC Davis back in the spring of 1982, I rode my ten-speed bike on the country roads outside my hometown to get used to the campus’ mode of transportation. The hills bore row upon row of orange trees, thick with white starry flowers, giving off their heady perfume of orange blossoms in the early morning. No matter that I had an allergic reaction to them – I never tired of breathing deeply, as if I could not get enough of the sweet scent, as if I would never return home again. And then at Davis, after taking a heavy course load winter quarter, I opted for a light load in the spring because I was always stricken with a bad case of spring fever. I didn’t want to be in lecture halls. I wanted to be out in the sun.
My second and final year at Syracuse, I remember stepping out of the graduate dorm into a spring snow storm in 1990. I managed to slide my yellow Toyota Corolla station wagon down a hill off campus and up against a curb parking spot, completely by accident. By the end of the day, the snow was gone, making me question its very existence that morning. It became a spring day, albeit a Syracuse spring day. I remember this time in Syracuse now because I came across two poems by two poets that one of my professors taught together in a seminar. The two poets were as far apart personally and aesthetically as can be, which made them the perfect pairing for a seminar. The English poet and novelist, Philip Larkin, was known for his dark, melancholy work, while the more famous Chilean poet, politician, and Nobel Prize winner, Pablo Neruda, ardently celebrated life through his works.
In celebration of spring, I present two poems:
by Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Love Sonnet 39
by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
But I forgot that your hands fed the roots,
Watering the tangled roses,
Till your fingerprints bloomed
Full, in a natural peace.
Like pets, your hoe and your sprinkling can
Follow you around, biting and licking the earth.
That work is how you let this richness loose,
The carnation’s fiery freshness
I wish the love and dignity of bees for your hands,
Mixing and spreading their transparent brood
In the earth: they cultivate even my heart,
So that I am like a scorched rock
That suddenly sings when you are near, because it drinks
The water you carry from the forest, in your voice.