Thursday, March 31, 2016

Again, the dazzling Question

     We're poised to turn the calendar from March to April, now eleven days past the Vernal Equinox. Sap rising is bringing on the soft red blush of maple bud, a gauzy veil over-laying the wooded hillsides, soon to be accented by pastels of gold and sea-green. Robins, song sparrows, red-wings, grackles, starlings, and phoebes are newly-returned. This morning a cheery mob of goldfinches swarmed the two feeders, good-naturedly jostling each other for the sun-flower seeds. Their subdued winter colors are rapidly brightening to yellow-gold, a transformation that never fails to amaze. Soon the fiddlehead ferns will be poking tightly-curled heads up through the leaves. Just beyond the barn there's a fairy-circle of them that I'm eager to step inside of once more and feel the tingly buzz standing quietly and happily among them. A few days ago a pair of wood ducks visited Hemlock Pond here near the house, perhaps sizing up the prospects of a nesting opportunity. The two previous Springs they've enchanted me in the same way, gliding about the dark water, the male resplendent in his handsome white- and black-outlined harlequin plumage of cinnamon, gold, and dark-green. Maybe this year they'll settle in! Though today's breezy 60s make me want to find my sandals, three to five inches of snow are forecast for a few days from now. Nothing to be discouraged about. After all, many will tell you that the Spring Peepers (who I heard for the first time last week!) need to "freeze in" three times before full Spring can arrive. And when it melts it will set the streams and waterfalls to singing all the more, songs that have echoed in these hills since long before any house stood here. It is the perennial do-si-do of Winter giving way to Spring.

I am a much-blessed resident of these seven acres, as enchanted with this third Vernal shift as I was three years ago. It was that first Spring when I discovered Mary Oliver's poem about this tender time, these emergent wonders. It's become part of my Spring ritual to read it aloud, savoring its delights. Her black bear enthralls me once more, and when I come to these lines, I ponder them anew.... 
"There is only one question: how to love this world."
The answer is often elusive though I've felt I've come close to it at time or two. What I can say for sure though is that it awaits me through the open back door.


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence 
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is    
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness 
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her --
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

~ Mary Oliver ~

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