Friday, March 13, 2009

Winter into spring

So I've been having this sideways conversation with a friend lately--"sideways" being the way one has conversations or their equivalent through digital media--about the relative merits of winter and spring.  Winter in the DC area isn't much: the occasional huge snowfall, smatterings of ice and slush, and so on.  My daughter loves these brief glimpses of winter.  A look through a glass darkly into another world, I suppose.  

I grew up where winter is lengthy and intense--can remember, as a child, snow banks higher than I was lining the walkway that led from our front porch to the sidewalk in the town where I grew up, and, later, the snow on my grandparents' farm obliterating every mark of normalcy, changing the subtle landmarks around us.  And the different types of snow, although I'm not an expert: powder, icy, granular, settled, sleety--the powder being the favorite because of the way the larger flakes are poised, one upon the other, accumulating in some kind of miniature, unknown, unseen geometric pattern multiplying at a rapid rate everywhere and yet destroyed with the placement of a foot.  Ski wax for X-C skiis in all of its varieties: pink, red, green, blue with their attendant temperature charts, and the wax ranging from sticky to impossibly stiff.

But winter here, in the DC metro area, is just a pain in the ass.  Things are briefly pretty, new, different.  But mostly winter = disruption of any plans I might make.  I've never really grown accustomed to living in an area where people throw up their hands at winter and retreat into their homes as though the day of judgement were near.  School is canceled, the federal government goes on its liberal leave policy, the plows don't hit your neighborhood for days.  And Robert can't really go out in it anymore.  So we're largely stuck in the house.  

But winter is what's necessary for spring.  For all of it.  For "Spring & All."  I can gladly part ways with winter as it draggles to a close here, but I am happy to return again to its dormancy and retrenching and surprise and mystery when it comes round again.  It's that tension, the modulated control of winter that gives spring its sheer exuberance.  They go hand in hand, in all their difference and shifts in aspect and perspective.  

So I turn to William Carlos Williams' kind of infectiously crazy prose work, Spring and All, in which he uses the dynamics of winter into spring as a metaphor for the uncurling of the imagination, for the limitless unfolding of art:

"It is spring.  That is to say, it is approaching.  THE BEGINNING.

In that huge and microscopic career of time, as it were a wild horse racing in an illimitable pampa under the stars, describing immense and microscopic circles with his hoofs on the solid turf, running without a stop for the millionth part of a second until he is aged and worn to a heap of skin, bones and ragged hoofs--In that majestic progress of life, that gives the exact impression of Phidias' frieze, the men and beasts of which, though they seem of the rigidity of marble are not so but move, with blinding rapidity, though we do not have the time to notice it, their legs advancing a millionth part of an inch every fifty thousand years--In that progress of life which seems stillness itself in the mass of its movements--at last SPRING is approaching.

In that colossal surge toward the finite and the capable life has now arrived for the second time at that exact moment when in the ages past the destruction of the species Homo sapiens occurred.  

Now at last that process of miraculous verisimilitude, that great copying which evolution has followed, repeating move for move every move that it made in the past--is approaching the end.

Suddenly it is at an end.  THE WORLD IS NEW."

In that majestic progress of life--movements slowed down to the metrics of invisibility, yet there--and the world changing and shifting, even when it seems not to do so.  On and on we go with Robert, with ourselves, busily seeking continual change, feeling the presence and the shift under us always, always moving forward.

2 comments:

Leightongirl said...

When I lived on the east coast, my favorite time of year was March. You could smell the loam of the soil and feel the air just staring to change. Hang in there, it will be warm before you know it.

Elizabeth said...

adding to leightongirl -- soon you'll see that incredible transparent green on the trees before they turn dark and heavy