Cathedral of Spring

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 7:30pm
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April came slowly, the daffodils at the turn off Mansion Road that some years bloom the first of the month opened a solid two weeks later this year. The forsythia, part of the yellow wave that belongs to this part of spring, has finally flowered, tossing splashes of color into the awakening, but still, in many places, sleepy brown landscape.

My old forsythia is on the south side of the old part of the house, protected from the north and east winds. It has grown out and up over the eaves, to the point of battering the now-gone wooden gutter; it has been a cloud of color many springs.

I have cut it back many times but it is having trouble recovering from the last trim, when it was taken down almost to the ground for the sidewall behind it to be re-shingled. It is sparse, yet, a few long branches grown tall, but lacking the full body that has returned after those numerous other cuttings.

Perhaps it needs a bit more attention than I have been giving it but I have an expectation that it and anything else that predates me will always come back, perhaps not the best pre-supposition unless one is thinking of knotweed.

Every day, every spring, I think I can see a difference from morning to afternoon, more green in the tree and lilac buds, higher shoots of the peonies and, yes, knotweed, and the wash of pink that is the first sign that the shad is rousing from its winter slumber.

This year I am even more certain, looking out my kitchen window, and past the two old cream bottles, relics of another time, to see the greening of the fields under a layered sky. Where the grass was cut last spring and summer is a deep green at day's end; another patch mowed in the fall is wavering toward color; the hill, chopped in the winter, is softly tan. There is new growth trying to poke through, I am certain, because I watch the geese, the Canada geese who seem huge, half again as large as they were a year ago, wandering about, bills down.

The mallards are back as well, glossy, colorful Mr. Mallard and his blend-into-the reeds Mrs. They favor the water in the swales, the temporary puddles we give airs with the term “vernal pond,” safe little places where no foot snapping turtles live and the newest shoots grow up soft and tender.

The big geese waddle up the hill and the mallards, shaking water from the their tails, try to follow, like children determined to catch up to the big kids who aloofly dismiss them, extending their black velvet necks, as if to underscore their superiority.

Then the geese lift up and fly, honking, over the house to land in the north pasture. They and the horses do not seem to dwell in some state of peaceful co-existence as much as they appear dedicated to tolerating to the point of ignoring each other, and both groups, in turn, dismissing out of hand the dog.

Autumn, for her part, makes only half-hearted attempts at chase. She has decided it is her duty to sit sentry in the front yard, guarding the new, bright daffodils and forsythia. With the front field cleared and much of the neighbor's wall as well, she has a more open view of the Mansion Road and feels obligated to announce the passage of every car, each and every car — and there are surprisingly more than one would expect in mid-April.

Or I thought she was there until I felt a wet nose when I reached out to stretch. The door is open for the first time in a long time, and even though the temperature outside is several degrees below where I set my thermostat the sun is such a force the heat is not churning, yet.

It will be 20 years the end of this week since the terrible shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Denver area schools have been closed today in response to a “credible threat” which is being diminished by the radio talk show prattle over how different news outlets are characterizing the girl/teen/woman at the center of it. I kept downshifting, trying to find a less toxic, local station, but it seems a futile search.

Twenty years ago there was a terrible school shooting and an editorial in a regional paper asked “if not now, when?” would the issue of gun control be taken seriously. I have long since lost track of the number of school shootings, houses of worship shootings, even a country western concert shooting, and we are more removed now than then.

Twenty years ago we still watched television collectively, not with a phone or tablet in hand as well. A friend and I said enough, we would not spend an April afternoon watching coverage of a memorial service and, of course, we sat and we watched and we wept.

This year, I began the week realizing that the Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon was, for the first time since 2013, being run on April 15 (six years including one Leap Day). That was the year bombs exploded near the finish line of the race and a city shut down. Remarkably, in a few short days, the length of a Red Sox road trip, the city rose and was rallying when the team returned home. The voice lingering over time is not that of a politician but of a baseball player, one of the heroes of 2004, whose brief opening remarks, unprepared but heartfelt, under other circumstances would have brought down the hammer of FCC fines.

Instead, in that cathedral of springtime in Boston, where hope abided, alone, for decades, came a stirring close to a very bad week. It could have been an echo of an April battle more than 350 years past, this is our city.