May Evening

Here’s an essay from James D. Sprattmoran to shake things up a little…
Into the WoodsThis evening after work I walked on the hillside among poplars and basswood looking in the leaf-fall for morels. In an hour I filled a mesh bag with thirty and came home and sautéed them in butter and olive oil and sprinkled them with sea salt and parsley with a splash of chardonnay and savored these first flavors of spring. As I walked I thought of how avaricious I become searching among deadwood. I always want more and more, and must remind myself the handful I gather is enough for one meal; any more will simply turn my taste and ruin my appetite.

The first cherries blossomed today, a muted white against the freshets of green upwelling from the warming earth. The orchards, hazed with bloom, undulate over drumlins, this brief ecstatic explosion that will be gone in a week. I see the farmers have the hives on the hills hoping the bees will be warm enough this year to do their work.

With these first warm days, temperatures over seventy, we turn out into the world in our spring colors and pale skins, seeking the celebration of others. Lingering on the stoop or the office steps, we chat about whatever comes to mind, our spirits coursing with the season. Like snakes, we slough our winter selves—sometime soon it will happen to you, your eyes will go opaque and your skin will feel too tight and you’ll have to rub against something abrasive to get it to split and then you’ll writhe and wriggle to extricate yourself from what garbed and girded you all winter. Sudden, we look around and everyone fills radiant new skins—dazzling, spectacular.

With May I suffer a strange melancholy—not that I want the dark days back, but I understand why most suicides occur once the weather warms. There is something oppressive about so much sun and light—the desperate desire to fill every moment with activity. The manic impulse to live as rampantly as the frogs and songbirds, tulips and plum blossoms. I think of the irony of Emily Dickinson’s “heavenly hurt.” Hell, when all the world is breaking open before our eyes, it seems antithetical to continue in such staid conditioning. Better to throw off fetters and frolic. Perhaps the Celts knew the power of such jubilation when they celebrated Beltane, lighting the bonfires and dancing and swooning all night into summer.

With the changing season gas prices rise and the pressure of economic uncertainty abates a bit. Soon the gardens will be fruiting: asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb; then greens and snow peas; suddenly the gardens will blaze with poppies. Maybe it is easier to withstand hunger when the world is green than when no leaves grace the trees. Or maybe the news has changed, or the timbre in the newscasters’ voices. Maybe the end of the world is still a ways away and we can all keep on keeping on. After all, the swine flue turned out to be less swinish than anticipated. Instead of annihilation, we wake and go to work and have to pay the bills.

The other day my friend and I spoke about how time is conditional: sometimes compressed, sometimes telescoped, depending on light and love and the many arbitrary exigencies we encounter on waking. This May, the light fills the lakes past dusk and I feel I can linger as evening falls; after all I know at fifty I have an finite number of evenings left to me.

Photo: Into the Woods by jimflix



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