I love all four seasons in New York, but spring… ah…. Two days ago I stepped out into the gray and misted dawn and listened to the first real song of the American robin. I accepted what I heard as a modest gain compared to what many sections of the country were experiencing in a bloom already underway, but it felt good nonetheless.
The bird’s song was sweet, almost muted, but enticing, and I thought of the upstate NY farmer, William Christman (1865-1937), and his poem, “The First Robin.”
Seven years ago, Alan Casline and I brought out a small volume of the poet’s work, called On the Helderhill (available on request). Here are two of Christman’s timely pieces:
The light that prints blue shadows on old snow Had wakened him at dawn as it had me, And drew him from his cave alert for spring. There in the bitter dark of the great birch Before his door He sharpened teeth and claws, For teeth and claws grow dull from long disuse.
The old Neanderthaler, hairy and brainless, Standing erect like a man! A vegetarian too, with those formidable teeth! The blackberry bank roofed him from winter; Today he feels the pull of the approaching sun And basks here, thinking, if he thinks at all, Of summer meadows spread with clover blooms.
Surely the earth must be our Mother, She bares her warm brown breast impartially to both; The sun our Father, kindling life anew, Restoring every soul.
* * *
The first melody that followed the thousand years of winter, The old, rollicking strain, The robin drawing the frost from the rigid trees, Starting the sap in the sugar maples, Thawing the frozen earth with song; The ice honeycombing, The hillside drifts wasting, Becoming fluid at the relaxing influence; The arteries of the continent responding to a chord And pulsing down the grooves ploughed by the old glaciers.
So he sang when the ancient ice melted: “Joy, oh, joy, the eternal winter receding! Oh willows with your all-golden sheaves! Oh dogwood osiers dipped in wine! The blessed spring returning With undiminished hope After a thousand years.”
Do those rails get used much? Looks like a little bit of rust on them. Spring certainly has sprung but I”ll not be fooled into thinking there won’t be any more s….sn……. ‘that word’ associated with the white stuff of solid state water that appears white. But… the worst is behind us. Although i do like to see and experience four seasons also, winter include with the white stuff. This time of year does mean we can be a little more comfortably dress for the trouting excursions though. Heading back to open the place up a week from tomorrow! Just for a week. Got to get back for the second shot. But then….. look out. Hahaa. Great post as usual RTR … UB
Wow… submitted a LOT of typos and just rushed comment – apologies…. UB
No problem, UB, thanks for weighing in… the Vernal Equinox is a sweet formality around here, no promises made concerning the weather, as it should be, I guess. Those tracks ARE a bit rusty, haven’t been used for at least… what… 10 years maybe, just have me looking back & then ahead. Glad to hear that you’ll be opening the camp soon. And fishing shortly after?
Not many signs of spring so far in the Philadelphia burbs. It will be happening very soon though. By the way: Is it just me, or is this year flying by?
Thanks Neil, and there are probably even less signs here because of higher latitude & altitude, but once the doors open wide, watch out… I also think the year has really flown, so far, on big mighty wings– a sign not of spring so much but, in my case. older age!
Surprising how time flies when you’re having fun…. 🙂 UB
That restless feeling returns about this time each year, a yearning to be a part of the great awakening. The signs are there of you look hard enough – the blue birds flitting around last season’s nesting box, the wood ducks returning to the pond behind our house, the first robin stutter stepping across the frozen earth, and on the stream, little black stoneflies flutter among the tangle of leafless branches. Soon the old doe, matriarch of the little herd that frequents our woodlot will bless us with another generation to carry on her legacy. You capture it elegantly. All the Best!
Thank you, FT, I like your fine perceptions of “the great awakening.” Here, too, the first bluebird singing from the crown of a corner ash tree, the deer herd scratching out new possibilities on the thawing ground, the wood ducks to the local marsh, the stonefly hatch… We’ll be there to welcome it!
I like Christman’s comparisons of the Earth to a literal body, with “the arteries of a continent” awakening from their slumber in response to a “chord.” Once those vital signs spring to life, it can feel like nothing can stop them. The onset of spring is truly among the most magical experiences to be had anywhere, at any time.
Yes! The simple chord begins it all, awakening, then the song can seem magical, symphonic. Thank you!
There is so much poetry in the spring. They are well chosen, the beautiful poems by W.W. Christman.
Thank you for sharing!
So much poetry, indeed. I’m glad that you have liked & appreciate these. Thanks Hanna!
Spring has a different slant here in the deep South, a few cold fronts with lots of rain about every other day. Throw in several tornados and you have what the weather is like during March, April, and early May.
The hard winters would be my only downer living in the Northeast. The wife and I are too on in years to make a move now, but we can still dream of how it would be. Hope you make it to one of those beautiful streams soon —thanks for sharing
Bill, Thanks for your take on the differences & the similarities we seasoned outdoor folk have on the places we love. Every region has its beauties & challenges, for sure, and it’s rewarding to experience as much as we can.
Lovely poem choices here, Walt! Yes, we can see you, spring. It sure feels restorative to emerge and stand blinking in the sun, thinking ahead to new season delights – that’s if I’m thinking at all…
No one’s gonna call you a groundhog, Adam, though you’re standing upright, looking forward soberly (I’m sure) to new delights & thinking hard (of course!). Thank you, as always.