Posts Tagged ‘spring’

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

Appalachian Spring

March 17, 2019

We are reminded that life is good when bright sunshine lifts the  slumber out of these old brown hillsides.

We know life is good when ten-month-old granddaughter contributes smiles to our quiet enjoyment.

Then she leaps with joy in her jumperoo.

Just outside the glass door, Appalachian Spring bursts forth in sunshine, warmth, and quiet celebration of a winter that is gone, gone, gone, and again I say unto thee, gone!

Gone with the snow, gone with the tragi-tales of our human’s wintr’ous struggle . . . at least for a season, at least for today, at least for a few moments. . . while spring tumbles in outside . . .

And lo, what is this amazing sound on the  inside?. . .  here in the inside of our mountain home . . . Harken: Violins, clarinets! cellos, flutes, even trumpets sending out yon first tender shoots of sonorous celebration, as first strains of mountainside spring penetrate the forest floor outdoors, accompanied orchestrally by vibrant  woodwinds and reeds. They agree to ascend  in jubilant rondos, ultimately trotting toward some old Shaker praise.

Life abounds with simple gifts if you wait for them, and even more sweetly if you have worked for them.  Now we pause to appreiate their arrival as the shoots come burstin’ out all over!

Yes, Life is good when bright sunshine lifts the slumber out of these old brown hillsides.

And reflections unfold in memory of springs long ago. . . a different time, a different place. . .

Many and many a year ago I was a clueless college student way down south, down in the bayou country where the coming of spring was too soon overtaken by the fierce heat of summer.

I would escape the routinous sweating of  academic chores. Slipping into the cool music listening room at LSU Student Union, I’d request a big vinyl platter whereon was somehow wondrously tracked the sedate, celebratory strains of Aaron Copland’s masterpiece orchestral work—Appalachian Spring. At that time I listened to Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. This morning, however, the quick search lands us on:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMaAe2aH6pw   

AppSpring2

While listening, I am remembering . . . escaping through miracle of sound-tracked vinyl, that early-’70’s sweltering Southern day. I would dream, it would seem, of days ahead when I would experience Appalachian Spring, the real thing!

AppSring1

And now that I have seen, oh, forty-or-so of these Springs, as an inhabitant, I find myself once again sacramentally satisfied with the blooming outcome.

I was pleased when, 39-years ago, my chosen bride of Appalachia (a New Jersey transplant)  bloomed forth in her wonderful hips and delivered the beginnings of our family.

According to that first child’s  January birthday, it must have been about this time of year—early spring—when we conceived him.

Sap’s rising, yes indeed . . . was then, is now.

‘Tis true. Life is good when again you celebrate Appalachian spring’s crawling-in. The season sneaks in through splashing outside sunshine. While tiny granddaughter babbles here on the floor,  we revisit our  old musical companion once more: Appalachian Spring.

King of Soul

When the green buds are swellin’. . .

May 9, 2016

Spring rushes in; the world is turning;

every impulse sends forth new yearning.

Green sprigs sprout up fresh and tender;

passion’s pangs of love they render.

BudBlm1

Some folks find love and cultivate;

they come together and procreate.

Others yearn and burn and go to town;

instead of loving they just screw around.

For some love works out really well

the passion swells deeper than I can tell.

But some yearnings get nipped in the bud

when careless affairs turn to crud.

While spring is new, passions are old.

In the annals of song a sad love tale is told

of love that budded but ne’er did bloom.

Herein begins the ancient Barb’ry Allen tune:

” ‘T’was in the merry month of May

when the green buds they were swelling,

Sweet William on his death bed lay

all for the love of Barb’ry Allen . . . “

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqHJ4V893e0   

But despair not; some lovers pair faithfully.

Swelling with commitment, they grow up gracefully,

even through ordeals and terrible times;

true lovers do generate inspiring rhymes:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lnJSW-OUyM

“This couple they got married,

so well did they agree.

This couple they got married;

so why not you and me?

Oh. . . so why not you and me?”

And this this works out well.

BudBlm2

Glass half-Full

Blood runs through it

May 5, 2015

RobinNest

It not very often that a man can see

such a sight as this little nest in a tree

woven among branches, for free.

An ole fella showed it to me.

 

One of those rusty little robin mamas hath done this;

She been hoppin around on grass

pluckin up worms and strands and God only knows

what all she be extractin for these little critters to eat.

 

Why just a little while back

when I was achin for spring to pop out

she come hoppin around like she own the place.

Now look what she done.

 

As I look at this wonder in the tree

three little miracles do I see:

that tweeky yellow beak, fully formed it seems to me,

quite prickly in the midst of that soft bird infancy,

 

and a fat vessel where birdie’s red blood I see

in this miniscule critter balled up in sibling idiocy

as these clueless hatchlings await their turn

to grab from mama beak a big fat worm,

or two.

Who knew?

 

And number three wonder is the vigilant care

with which mama robin hath woven this nest so fair.

She must really love them little critters in there,

dispensing her care from out of thin air.

 

Now somewhere deep in my memory

someone said only God can make a tree;

now I’m amazed he grew this tree here for me

so I can view such new life from mama birdie.

 

Glass Chimera

The Apple Moment

May 6, 2014

Who knows how many lifetimes ago the Appalachian mountains laid this little stream down between these two ridges.

This afternoon in bright spring sunshine, flowing waters roll softly over mica-laden silt. Here and there the ripples leap over smooth stones, gushing as they go.

It’s just a small stream here, but clear, cold water has trickled along this valley’s lowest path for centuries.

The creek is not a wild one now; it’s been domesticated. Lawn grass, now vibrant with spring greening, extends through the surrounding slopes down to the water’s edge. But the peaceful waters still render it, for visitors and passersby, a welcome respite from nearby human habitations. Overhead, the maples, locust trees and shrubs are sprouting leaves. Spring is here at last.

A cluster of two-story apartment buildings adjoin the stream. A street winds pragmatically through the well-planned site. Beside the shady street, which is reasonably quiet most of the time, a wooden landscaped ledge displays low juniper foliage.

I am walking through dappled sunshine below the ledge, which is about four feet high. There between two junipers next to the timbered ledge I see an apple on the ground. It’s very red atop the brown bark mulch. Somebody has dropped this apple.

So I pick it up. I am the maintenance man here. Whose is it? Its a store-bought apple. Maybe I’ll return it to its owner, or maybe I’ll just take a bite of it. But no! There’s a big rotten spot on it.

On second thought, because the bad spot occupies about half the apple, I will not eat it, I’m not hungry in mid-afternoon, and surely nobody else wants this apple either. That’s probably why its here on the ground by the road.

What shall I do with it?

I will throw this apple. What the heck. This is the first real spring day here in the Blue Ridge. I’ll just go crazy like a March hare and throw it and let it smash. Spring practice.

Where shall I throw it?

There’s the stream over there, gurgling through the shade and the spotty sunshine about thirty yards away. Maybe some baby trouts would enjoy this apple if it smashes in their watery domain.

I look at the stream. In an instant, my eyes settle on a specific spot in the stream, where water is gurgling over rounded stones. I raise my arm and cock it back like the center-fielder that I was many and many year ago in little league back in the day, and I hurl the apple over at the stream.

It strikes the water with a splash, exactly where I was looking on the water’s surface. How did I do that?

I haven’t thrown anything in a coon’s age. I have not been practicing this. I’m 62. I wasn’t even aiming. I was just. . . throwing an unplanned apple on a day in May.

Doesn’t everybody throw an apple, or something, in the spring time just to, just for the sake of . . .

It wasn’t my mind that did this. It was a sudden, impetuous act, with no purpose. I didn’t even think about it. My arm and my brain managed, intuitively, to retrieve some ancient muscular memory from baseball or from skipping stones or . . . it landed exactly where my eyes were focused.

To what do I attribute such intuitive finesse?  Is it evolution that preserved within me this unprecedented, unplanned mastery? Hurling a found object across a trajectory in such an arc of indeterminate accuracy that it splashed exactly where my eyes had imagined it would?

Am a genius? Maybe an idiot savant?

Well, no. And I don’t think such a wondrous accomplishment as this is attributable to mere evolution.

My belief is: I know there is a God; God did it. Surely I myself could not have pulled off such a thing. God conceived and formed my DNA and my bones and my muscles that cling to those bones, and my neurons that connect up to my brain that commands my arm and coordinates its movements with my eyes, and my depth perception and a hastily-improvised assessment of the appropriate arc of the purposeless apple projectile and the weight of the apple with air resistance and sunshine and springtime and suddenly for no reason whatsoever there it is splashing in the millennial stream.

Surely God hath done this thing with the apple!

But why did I do such a crazy deed as hurling an apple at a creek when I was supposed to be doing my maintenance man job?

A few hours later, I’m thinking maybe my exuberant toss happened because I was jubilant, having just heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the radio,  or having just realized that it was was a springtime day such as this 350 years ago when Isaac Newton noticed that an apple dropped from a tree and the rest is history and history is being made as we speak.

 Glass Chimera

The Mockingbird?

March 9, 2013

Pat and I traveled yesterday afternoon, from our Blue Ridge mountain home in North Carolina, down to Georgia.

We are spending the weekend with our daughter, Katie.

This morning I wake up to the sound of a bird outside the apartment window. The call of the bird is different, not like the sounds of birds where we live. Here in Georgia, the advent of spring is rampant, compared to our snowy home environs which is several thousand feet higher in altitude and a degree or two of longitude more northerly on earth’s sphere.

Shortly after daylight peaked through Katie’s curtains, as I was laying on the floor to stretch my back and legs because I was not used to the soft bed, I heard the mockingbird somewhere outside.

At least I think it was a mockingbird. I can only surmise it was a mockingbird, because this little creature would not stick to one song, but kept changing his/her calls from one signal to another. So I’m laying there thinking, isn’t this what a mockingbird does? Is it not called a mockingbird because it “mocks” or imitates the songs of other birds?

This little aural adventure reminded me of my childhood at grandma Mimi’s house in Baton Rouge, some fifty-odd years ago. My sister and I would be laid into a guest room for an afternoon nap. This was unique because Mimi had, in that guest room, a fancy (she was of French heritage) four-poster bed with a white fabric canopy over its top, like you might see in movies about 18th-century royals or some such setting.

As I would be reclining on that luxurious bed, I could hear birds chirping on the other side of the curtained window. (The window treatment matched the poster-bed.) Mimi and J.C. had an outside courtyard with high brick walls around it and all sorts of Louisiana plants within–crepe myrtles, azaleas, camellias, canna lilies and gardenias and so forth–and a birdbath or two. So outside the window, the bird would maybe be sitting in the birdbath taking a bath and having fun in the water.

Be the bird as it may, in the birdbath or on the brick wall or perched on the leafy hedge or wherever it was casting its little hybrid songs, the feathery crooner was doing its yakkity thing, just being the birdbrained creature that God made him/her to be. I may have heard a mockingbird at that time and maybe that’s why I’m reminded of that childhood memory as I lay here now in Georgia in March 2013. But actually the bird call I remember most vividly from that nap time was not the mockingbird, but a blue jay.

I think it was a blue jay, anyway. The call was just a single shriek, like a “caw.” But it wasn’t a crow’s caw. It was not as loud that, and much kinder and gentler. Maybe that’s the call of the blue jay, or maybe it’s just the way I imagine a blue jay would sound, with his little bishopric peaky cap on his head and that big black beak sticking out like some kind of stuck-up sabre or something.

Anyway, back to the mockingbird, if that’s what it was, in Gainesville this morning. This bird, as I said earlier, did not stick to one call, but just kept whipping out a whole collection of different calls, one sample after another, like a moog gone au natural under the errantly genius touch of a four-year-old. Some were quick staccatos. . . ch ch ch ch, or some sustained legatos. . .wrr wrr wrr wrr wrr, or mixtures. . .ch ch wrr wrr wrr, or little buzzy blends. . .vzz vzz vzz vzz, or indecipherable birdbrain phonemes. . .brd oop brd oop brd ooo, or jazzy little themes. . .whoobidy shooop whoobidy shoop whoobidy shoop shoop shoop, with every now and then a dovish coo followed by a hawkish wra! wra!  I’ve got rhythm, was a part of the message, like Porgy or Gershwin or some other person of ancient Americana. A kind of poetry it was.

A bird with an identity crisis, I guess, is what it must have been, a little like the interpreter who was stretched out on the floor with nothing better to do on a Saturday morning than harken to those first auditory signals of spring down hyeah in the deep south, y’heah me now?

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress