Sunday, April 11, 2010

Walking around Spring

Started this on Sunday. Now it's Monday night, and I don't want to be finishing on Tuesday. So let this be a half-baked walkabout of random thoughts about spring.

Starting with "Take a puff. It's springtime."

People of a certain age will recognize that as the tagline of a long-running ad campaign for Salem cigarettes, a menthol brand. Here's a typical Salem commercial from the fifties. A dewy blonde reclines among the daffodils and blows a cloud of cigarette smoke into the fresh spring air while a swan paddles in the pond behind her. (Note endearing wobble as she rises.) A cigarette: the essence of springtime. "Filtered with fresh air!" yet. And we bought it.

I used to say, only half-jokingly, that no higher praise could I shower on a spring day, like Sunday, than to call it a Salem commercial. The sky was Salem-ad blue. The blossoming trees were Salem-ad white. It's kind of what the mythmakers did: exalted nature by making it the domain of the gods. In this case, the gods were promoting a brand of cigarettes. There was a menthol to their madness.

This made me wonder how deep we go with spring normally. Not being hooters and rutters and grass-rollers, but at best, smilers and sighers and oh-wowers. We kind of create our own Salem commercials of spring, to promote the season itself. "Take a sniff. It's Springtime!" Which makes sense. It's a short season with too many things changing and growing and arriving in too brief a time span to count. We kind of have to stand back and round it off to a green haze in the trees and register the new birds with a "Spring has sprung/the flowers has riz/I wonder where/the boidies is." Unless we take it upon ourselves to do a little census-taking.

A little goes a long way. Fifteen minutes at Alewife today. The nominal quarry: a palm warbler. The results: a low yield, but cherce. The sun and gravid clouds playing a game of optimism/pessimism. Some kind of melodrama being enacted by two pairs of very vocal Canada geese. A few random goldfinches and song sparrows adding their two cents and holding down the cognoscenti of the universe job, on par with whatever cosmic truths the sky was telling. That was it. And you could probably do nearly as well at an open window.

The shortest season, by far. Summer is macro, a blanket. Fall is short, but longer than spring. Winter's another blanket. Spring unpacks its bags in a rush and like the song says, April, love, can slip right through your fingers. So let it go but watch it go. Time to go.

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