April, according to TS Eliot’s opening lines from ‘The Wasteland’, is the cruelest month. Really? Maybe in England, but not here in Portland.
It’s no wonder Eliot had bad feelings about April. The City of London lies at 51 degrees; the same longitude as Calgary. Contrast that with Portland, which sits at a balmy 45 degrees of longitude (equivalent to Genoa),
Those 6+ degrees make a world of difference. April in Portland brings a riot of sun, showers, and late blooming spring plants. Jolly old England is still mired in mud season and waiting for the lilacs to bloom.
And anyway, let’s face it: where would you rather be for spring? Genoa or Calgary?
This isn’t an oblique form of literary criticism; Eliot was working with the imagery he had available, which is what all poets do. But I wonder what he would have written about spring if he lived in Honolulu. Probably nothing. There are no seasons there.
Somehow, I don’t think anyone could write edgy verses about the weather in a tropical climate. In fact, I can’t really think of any powerful poetry that has come out of a tropical climate. Everything is just too coconut/grass skirt cute to bear up under a complex and powerful climate image.
Anyway, back to the weather in Portland. For me, the arrival of spring is my favorite time of year. March gets our hopes up, as the neighborhoods explode with blooms. By April we’ve had a few warm sunny days, the grass is unbearably green, and we’re intoxicated with the promise of more to come.
The dramatic changes of our seasons have been a driving force in the religious imagery of all cultures, but perhaps more so in Christian cultures than in any other. And, in every religion, the cycle of prayers and religious holidays runs parallel to the seasons.
Some of the most complicated and powerful spiritual imagery is rooted in nature. And maybe no religious imagery is more powerful than that of Easter. The essence of the season of spring is expressed in the image of Easter and the idea of resurrection.
This imagery of a resurrection can extend to expressing the essence of all new beginnings and startings over, including the romantic kind.
Here’s something I wrote while walking down the street, thinking about it all and enveloped by a warm snowstorm of cherry blossoms.
Cherry petals drifted past, unnoticed,
floated silently on swirls
of warm night Easter air,
stirred by passing cars and late night walkers
while we kissed; only half-aware,
and open –for a moment–
to each other.
With careful hands,
You laid your flowers down and waved goodbye;
taking yourself, the moment,
the soft feel of your lips on mine;
all of them gone with you.
Cherry petals drifting past, unnoticed,
lift silently on swirls
of late-day Easter air,
stirred by passing cars and Sunday walkers
while I stand, half-aware
trying to recall –for one clear moment–
your stunned warmth.
With careful shovel
I open up the earth, for just a moment,
carefully planting your blue-eyed gift;
and some part of you is resurrected