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Spring: The Ungive of Snow Bones

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.

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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.

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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.

Spring is Sprung

That earlier post about pitch put me in a linguistic glitch.

Do drips drip and drops drop? Or drips drop and drops drip?

It all sounds wrong and looks funny on the page after a very short time indeed. Anyway Spring does indeed spring, but today, on the evening dog walk, I found evidence that it has also sprung. I am not convinced the sunny days and freezing nights are particularly conducive to tree blossom, but nature is giving it a good old go like the old broad she is, with blowsy, fuzzy leaf buds busting out all over.

This my eldest daughter’s favourite tree in the park. It’s quite nice that she has one.

The dog had the wind up his tail on the walk, spring has got him sprung too, although he did mention it was a bit parky to go naked (I had forgotten to put his coat on). A little girl in her pushchair asked her mum as we wended homeward, ‘Why has that doggie got so much legs?’ I am too deaf to have heard the answer, but had some mild amusement to think of the eight-legged beast on the end of my lead.

Anyway, here’s the evidence that spring has finally sprung from it’s winter irons:
an evening magnolia

magnolia

magnolia close

‘Wild Mountain Thyme’

My friend Enkunalma is off on her travels tomorrow, so I wanted to wish her well with a song. Now, she is doing some high-level managerial tasks at the moment (aka the budget); so if I were to burst into her (blind-up) pizza den (aka the office) and start warbling it might give the lovely people who make the place their home-from-home a laugh, but it would not be an especial treat for their ears… which is why I am opting for a You Tube event.

Recently I have been going through a real period of musical nostalgia, kick-started by the fabulous Rodriguez. He reminded me of something I had nearly forgotten: I love most music, but sometimes you don’t want crashing drums, screaming guitars and electronic gizmos. Sometimes, all you want is a bit of guitar gently strumming and the human voice. That falls under the category of folk music apparently. A folk song is one that has been handed down over generations, both the tune and lyrics, a song that is pre the recorded music industry. So, I was thinking that’s the kind of song I wanted to send Enkunalma on her way with. And the song I really wanted was ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, because it starts with the leaves coming into bloom, like they are now, and that’s what I hope for her at the other end when she gets off the great white bird and is reunited with family and friends, and no doubt some Finnish dogs and cats she has taken to her heart too.

Finding the right version of the song has proved tricky… I am heavily influenced by my youth, so the Corries’ version was right up there. And then I listened to the country singer Don Williams who has a version with the pipes and The Chieftans (sadly, too slow), James Taylor (my heart aches for his songs but he makes this song a bit too easy listening), Joan Baez (too scratchy and a bit bubbly on the high notes for my taste), Bob Dylan who is doing a great vocal job until it gets a bit too acrobatic in the epiglottis towards the end, and then there were the videos that contained a myriad of soaring Scottish scenery and uncredited voices which it was hard to turn down… But in the end, and I have surprised myself, I have gone with this version.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because I wouldn’t have expected him to have done it and he renders a beautiful folk song in its most simple form: a young man performing traditional songs without fuss or a rock star fanfare, for free on the radio. It reminds us that amidst what sometimes feels like chaos the world keeps turning, spring keeps arriving and what ever happens in life some things don’t change and those things are good.

Have a good trip!

‘Spring can really hang you up the most’

pond reflection

Yesterday in the park. Lyrics by the now departed Fran Landesman. A jazz standard that I hear in my head with Ian Shaw singing, accompanying himself on the piano. Beautiful and poignant.

Once I was a sentimental thing;
Threw my heart away each spring.
Now a spring romance
Hasn’t got a chance.
Promised my first dance to winter.
All I’ve got to show’s a splinter
For my little fling.

Spring this year has got me feeling
Like a horse that never left the post.
I lie in my room
Staring up at the ceiling.
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Morning’s kiss wakes trees and flowers,
And to them I’d like to drink a toast.
But I walk in the park
Just to kill the lonely hours.
Spring can really hang you up the most.

All afternoon the birds twitter-twitt.
I know the tune. This is love, this is it.
Heard it before
and don’t I know the score.
And I’ve decided that spring is a bore.

Love seems sure around the new year.
Now it’s April. Love is just a ghost.
Spring arrived on time,
Only what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most.
Spring can really hang you up the most.

College boys are writing sonnets
In their tender passion they’re engrossed
While I’m on the shelf
With last years easter bonnets
Spring can really hang you up the most

Love came my way. I thought it would last.
We had our day, now it’s all in the past.
Spring came along, a season of song,
full of sweet promise
but something went wrong.

Doctors once prescribed a tonic.
Sulfur and molasses was the dose.
Didn’t help one bit.
My condition must be chronic.
Spring can really hang you up the most.

All alone, the party is over.
Old man winter was a gracious host.
But when you keep praying
For snow to hide the clover,
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Rooftops Haiku

A pigeon hangs tough
Chimney pot dipping, tipping
and fanning his tail

From Luigi FDV’s Flickr photostream here