Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There is nothing new under the sun. True or false?

This afternoon I tear myself away from revising old blog posts (as a book) to find the grist for a new one, because it's extraordinary out there. In the seventies! (Septaguinta!) Then Matt comes home. We should play tennis, I suggest (though my heart is telling me to ride my bike out to the Brooks Estate in Medford, listen for new birds). But he's tired, finally. Feeling a little disingenuous, I say, that's okay, and maybe we'll play when I get back.

I ride to Brooks, following a zigzag route to Mystic River, up Saltonstall Rd., through the cemetery to the woods. Try to lock my bike; no keys. Left them at home. Never mind. I wheel the bike down the path to Brooks Pond, lean it against a tree. Mallards are quacking lustily and nonstop. I go for a look and hey! There's the hooded merganser that thinks it's a mallard, hanging out with the male and female mallard "like a Ukrainian orphan," in the words of my friend Ed. And better yet! There's the wood duck pair Ed told me about. Wood duck drakes have an Asian look, a green samurai helmet, as well as a North American look, broad bosky swatches of maroon browns and whites and blacks and greens and a red eye. The hen is gray with white tear-shaped goggles. A classy couple. I watch the hoodie and the woodies for a while, then steer my bike over to the deck at the end of the boardwalk, with built-in benches. The water is high and the planks creak ominously, but I lean the bike against the railing and sit down gingerly. And write:

There's nothing new under the sun. T or F?

And think about the conspiracy of spring. Literally a breathing together of us and new scents, subtle and un-. Not sure where that sweet spicy smell comes from, but it's wonderful. There are no other birds. Well, a few common ones: redwings, grackles, distant goldfinch and ringing flicker. This mild breeze must be Zephyrus, the west wind Chaucer talks about in his April prologue to The Canterbury Tales (Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote / the droght of March hath perced to the roote):

Whan Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,

It's a conspiracy because it's the old oxygen/CO2 exchange and because we're not in on it the way the rest of nature is. They're all collaborating, or being collaborated upon by this urgent warm wind that is urging up green blades and buds and leaflets, and conjuring up flowers, daffodils and forsythia, that royal blue carpet of scylla at the foot of many an old tree. It's a sexy temperature, no doubt about it, reminding you of every other sexy day in April or May with a warm breeze stirring, so the answer is:

False. Everything is new under the sun to someone, and even if I've heard a goldfinch sing that way and felt a mild breeze like this one, why compare? It's not the same. It's always a brand new conspiracy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Outs and Ins

March may have come in like a lion, but it wasn't a roaring one. More of a magisterial, businesslike one, walking the savannah, surveying its allotment of days, calculating the disbursal of spring, the reluctant retreat of winter, in small doses.

And it did not go out like a lamb, unless the few inches of wet, see-ya, snow that fell on eastern Mass. was supposed to be white as fleece.

After which April came in like that same shivering fox in lamb's clothing, with a weak April Fool grin.

Today is actually April 3, disguised as March 31, the day I wrote "Outs and Ins" up there. Months come in and go out in a variety of disguises, and in between they take on a costumery of other identities. This either says something about the futility of putting a face on a month, or the opportunity to put on as many faces as you like.

Which brings to mind, of course, the great John Belushi sketch from an early Saturday Night Live.

Chevy Chase:
Last week we made the comment that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Now here to reply is our chief meteorologist, John Belushi, with a seasonal report.

John Belushi:
Thank you Chevy. Well, another winter is almost over and March true to form has come in like a lion, and hopefully will go out like a lamb. At least that's how March works here in the United States.

But did you know that March behaves differently in other countries? In Norway, for example, March comes in like a polar bear and goes out like a walrus. Or, take the case of Honduras where March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.

Let's compare this to the Maldive Islands where March comes in like a wildebeest and goes out like an ant. A tiny, little ant about this big.

[holds thumb and index fingers a small distance apart]

Unlike the Malay Peninsula where March comes in like a worm-eating fernbird and goes out like a worm-eating fernbird. In fact, their whole year is like a worm-eating fernbird.

Or consider the Republic of South Africa where March comes in like a lion and goes out like a different lion. Like one has a mane, and one doesn't have a mane. Or in certain parts of South America where March swims in like a sea otter, and then it slithers out like a giant anaconda.

There you can buy land real cheap, you know. And there's a country where March hops in like a kangaroo, and stays a kangaroo for a while, and then it becomes a slightly smaller kangaroo. Then, then, then for a couple of days it's sort of a cross between a, a frilled lizard and a common house cat.

[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]

Wait wait wait wait. Then it changes back into a smaller kangaroo, and then it goes out like a, like a wild dingo. Now, now, and it's not Australia! Now, now, you'd think it would be Australia, but it's not!

[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]

Now look, pal! I know a country where March comes in like an emu and goes out like a tapir. And they don't even know what it means! All right? Now listen, there are nine different countries, where March comes in like a frog, and goes out like a golden retriever. But that- that's not the weird part! No, no, the weird part is, is the frog. The frog- The weird part is-

At this point John Belushi kind of loses it and falls off his chair. But I think I know what he was going to say. The weird part is the frog gets frog-Marched in . . . by a lion!

April fuel!