I have blogged about spring before – it happens every year after all. I have walked plenty this week, and seen much that is new after the dank, dour months of a brown winter: tight-budded pinpricks studding the hawthorn, a lone bee and butterfly brushing against cream walls, both discombobulated by the sun. A battalion of birdsong firing over the rooftops and this unnamed tactile splendour: a catkin that’s been down the gym.
And yet, as the snowdrops bloom with all their puny might, with the blowsy crocuses and uniform daffodils following hard on their delicate white heels, I always think of the Fran Landesman lyric, that spring can really hang you up the most. The Landesman lyrical sentiment is taken from the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
I. The Burial of the Dead
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
The words speak of change, which many of us are hardwired to resist although we generally seem to do worse, psychologically speaking, with external circumstantial changes, not directly within our control. Every year we are aware that spring, a change, is coming about this time – and we might feel, for the most part, that the seasonal change is welcome after months of short, dark days. So what of Eliot’s Waste Land?
For me, it is stark reality of bright light on the ‘dead land’ that unsettles. The sunscald in what once passed for a garden, the illumination of winter dust suddenly strewn everywhere… the fear that spring will, this time, undo us. These tensions provoke action. Spring cleaning and gardening for some, artistic productivity in others. Busyness will save us from the memory and desire, stirring, we hope.
Yes, April is the cruellest month. Be sure to enjoy March whichever way you can.
The title of this post is inspired by a new book about language and nature titled ‘Landmarks‘ by Robert MacFarlane and published in hardback this week.
N.b. This post has given me terrible trouble what with dodgy punctuation and big ideas gone astray. Apologies if it does not quite cohere.