Clear-Eyed and Joyful: On Spring

I’ve pretty much been a grump this winter. And it’s been a fairly mild winter–so what’s up? We’ve experienced nice, warm, sunny days in January, February and March, and you know how I felt about those days? I felt mean and dissatisfied and glum.

If someone said to me, as lots of people did on one of those delightfully moderate days:

“What a beautiful day, huh!”

or

“We sure are lucky this year with weather!”

or

“It feels like spring!”

I smiled buoyantly, nodded my head, and said something like, “Sure thing!” But what I was thinking was more like this:

“Have you ever heard of global warming? It’s February, for God’s sake. We should be trudging through snow, or running to the IGA for supplies to get us through an ice-storm! This isn’t normal, people. I know it’s pretty and all that, but we are like those damn frogs boiling to death in a cup of water heated so slowly we forget to jump out!”**

I looked like a chipper little spring worshipper, but I was muttering and mumbling and not enjoying a minute of the beautiful weather. Hmmm…what would we call this sort of behavior? We could call it clear-eyed and unsentimental. Or we could call it indignant, judgy, self-righteous, and joyless. I’m okay with clear-eyed, but I hate the last four.

I’ve been posting poems here in celebration of National Poetry Month. In looking for poems to post, I’ve read a lot of older poems, poems that have been out in the world for so long, they belong to everyone. The other day I did a search for “spring” poems on Poets.org, and this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) popped up.

Spring

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

 

Wow! I’ve got something in common with Edna St. Vincent Millay, I thought. Instead of enjoying the lovely weather, I’ve been pissed off that it is only disguising our ultimate demise, death, and destruction. (of course, Edna wrote a kick-ass poem about it, while I walked around with a fake smile)

 

I read the poem over and over. I knew it was speaking directly to me, and finally I got what it was saying.

 

Don’t be such an asshole, Bridgett! 
You can enjoy beauty.
It’s always a gift, even when it’s a sign of global warming.
 You can smile and mean it.
You can raise your face to the sun.
Don’t take yourself so fucking seriously.
You can be clear-eyed and joyful–holding two truths at the same time.

 

I get so caught up, folks. I get so caught up in worry and fear.

 

Yes, I’m terrified about the multitude of ways we are destroying our planet and the new administration’s seeming determination to speed that process up, but it’s just silly not to enjoy a beautiful day.

 

So the next time someone says to me–“Beautiful day, huh,” I’ll answer, “It is.”

And mean it.

**According to Wikipedia, the whole frog scenario is false. A frog will indeed jump out of water as it heats up.

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