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.
My dog has made me anti-social. Some might say more anti-social. The problem is that, like me, the dog is not anti meeting other dogs as such, he is just sensitive to the context and the type of dog. I would like to think, that in the latter case, I am more forbearing than he…
The problem with urban parks is that they are full of the kinds of dogs my dog might not like. It is hard to tell what kind of dog that might be; often I cannot tell until it is self-evident and far too late. I have started avoiding other dogs because it is easier. Often, I earmark a place as being suitable and empty of dogs and people. We begin our walk and then, lo and behold, it is like I have dropped an acid tab marked with a snarling set of canine choppers and we are surrounded by dogs.
That’s why today I drove out to the edge of the earth, although during the holiday period even the edge of the earth is busy with dogs. Still we managed to have a wild and windswept walk without encountering anyone too threatening. I took a few (rubbish) photos and the dog amused himself by doing his impression of a railer at Crayford greyhound track. He pretends he is wearing the red Trap 1 jacket, although he is actually wearing a green one with a red trim, and buzzes me at 25 mph, whilst I cross my fingers he doesn’t put his paw down a rabbit hole.
I thought I had lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land in my head for a while out there today. The scenery was Waste Land ish and, because I took a short and muddy cut behind a driving range I found what must have been 2012’s quota of lost golf balls. Actually, the Eliot poem that mentions the ‘thousand lost golf balls’ is Choruses from the Rock. I have written about that before. I picked up 22 golf balls; there were more. Like the acid tabs marked dog, once you drop the one marked golf ball you can’t stop seeing them in the undergrowth or half-buried in the mud but if I hadn’t have stopped then, I would be there still. I threw the 22 back over the fence and high netting that was intended to prevent their escape in the first place. It was the opposite of returning them to the wild. I don’t know if it was the day’s good deed or not.
And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”
On the way back to the car we were completely surrounded by dogs. Nightmare. Spaniels, terriers, puppies playing with footballs. If there is any time my dog is most likely to be anti-social it is when he has had his run and has his mind on a lie-down. I proceeded with caution.
One dog passed us, whining. He was a beautiful brown Saluki called Caspar – one of the Three Wise Men no less. He was, however, kept on a lead. His owner said he didn’t trust his recall, this was after two years. I pointed hopelessly at my dog who had slipped out of reach to greet a fellow, tethered, sighthound. ‘I don’t trust our recall after five,’ I said. We shared the brief moment of helpless embarrassment. These saluki and part-saluki lurchers are undoubtedly beautiful, but they are not of this world. They belong to camels and tents and following a star.