Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Thaw


What is there to say about spring that is pragmatic? I guess I could find some spring cleaning tips, or precautionary strategies regarding mud season for the Vermonters. But my only gesture toward simplicity today is just plain appreciation.


I am an armchair river rat. My books this week: Edward Abbey (Down the River) and Robert James Waller (Just Beyond the Firelight). Abbey waxes more profound and Waller more pragmatic, but they both wear their river affection on their sleeves (and I don’t enjoy it as nearly much when they write on other themes). Despite Waller and Abbey’s credentials, I still prize above theirs a more obscure book on a river journey that I read years ago, Yukon Wild by Beth Johnson. Johnson speaks in a more familiar female voice as she chronicles her journey with three women into Alaska. They have better fireside chats. So I can more easily ease myself into that canoe and take off.

To top off Abbey, Waller, and Johnson, I have been dipping into Mary Oliver’s poetry. Mary, although not in a canoe, finds herself near the water quite a lot. Oceans, rivers, swamps, waterfalls, you name it. She seems obsessed with lilies, water birds, and the like. I like her thoughts, her enthused appreciation. She would be a prize walking companion (although she might be too busy mentally crafting poems to interact).

Thinking back on what I thought were random book choices, it finally dawned on me that what I am craving is spring. Yes, I’d also like someday to undertake a long canoe journey, but what I am seeking in these books is soft air and an early thaw. Our driveway outside is a sheet of ice, but only days before this coating descended I walked the three miles to work on a balmy, spring-like morning. The morning was quiet, and mostly I listened to my own breath as I determinedly ascended (and gratefully descended) Deep River’s and Chester’s gentle hills. Not quite halfway through, the rain came, first in gentle fingers and then thick and steady. I was unprepared, but at least spared a full force torrent. I knew I’d look ragged at work, but I treasured what felt like sole ownership of the morning, and the rain seemed to heighten this sense of possession. I looked out through my water-spotted glasses at the boggy marsh and sighed. Things were thawing and I could smell peat and new growth. Despite yesterday’s frozen aftermath, that walk was my personal proof that spring is undeterred. By the calendar it is only four days away.

Last week I wrote about the hardship of a house fire in our family, and the awful chill that this loss created is also starting to thaw. The coworkers who showered (and continue to shower) my family with gifts can have no idea of the impact, of the hope that this gesture presented. And finally there is a rental house on the near horizon, a house near the burnt house, two blocks’ walk from beach. A perch from which to regroup, renew, to decide what to do. I am hoping that my mom can resume her walks to the water, that spring will call into the windows and awaken more hope.

Corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot and spring nearly sprung. A great Sunday combination.


At 3/19/2007 6:12 AM, Anonymous Linda said...

Beautifully written. Happy Spring.

At 3/21/2007 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, inspirational. I'm so glad you still have time to get out and walk... and then write about it so that I can live vicariously through you-- and maybe even be inspired to find the time to get out there myself.


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