Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cold Blossoms

Today spring is a week old and we're in a familiar venue: cold, early spring. Mixed messages abound. Three days of misleadingly mild weather. Then a return of cold rain. Even snow. March snow is different than October snow. October snow is just goofing around, a dry run, a sound check. Late snow, snow that falls in spring, is the guest who wouldn't leave. Who might not ever leave, like the yearlong winter of 1816, when it snowed two feet in June, in Vermont.

But this is just the chilled landscape of new spring. We know it for its anomalies and hedged bets. Goldfinches yellow from the neck up. Forsythia on the brink but not committing. Willows taking the chance, already past the gold that Robert Frost wrote about in the poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay":

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

There's a small park just before Arlington becomes Cambridge, called Magnolia Field. Someone planted four magnolia trees there. And they fell for it, I guess. Those big fuzzy green-gray catkins have generously opened up into white blossoms. Most of them furled, but still: snowy candles. Like guests who arrived at a party way too early. Don't they usually show up in April, or even May, when Marlborough Street in Boston is lined with them? Do they feel foolish? Can they go back to bed? Or will leaf subside to leaf, before its time?

This is spring's early crop, the shivering pioneers squinting in the pale sunlight. May Easter eggs hide in their grass while robins tune up in their branches.

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