Sunday, April 13, 2014

on the appearance of spring

I start with a mash-up of sentences from four books received this week. The mash-up contains every word and every punctuation mark of each book’s first sentence; I changed letter case only as necessary.
There is but one significant middleweight boxing champion of Princeton of 1860, and I find it hard to sum up in one word the character of Lucera. The lithographers Currier & Ives depicted the results in their fashion. The most unusual effect it produces on the mind is blurred; one sees so many towns that a history becomes freshness. In images of the nation’s presidential election that once truly popular suicide Robert Cohn was the most serious philosophical problem—in November.
Reading the mash-up is, for me, kind of like reading “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus. I am neither a philosopher nor prone to reading high-falutin’ literature, but I heard something about this book (actually an essay, a long essay) on the radio so ordered it along with these other books and reading it these past couple of days has been, remarkably, the best thing for my head, which once a month tends to slip into a funk, a seemingly irrational depression. More and more I am conscious of the onset of this funk as it has distinct physical manifestations, and when Camus arrived on the very day I was falling I dove into reading. I was conscious of my reading and even more conscious of my incomprehension. Then, bam zoom.
Of whom and of what indeed can I say: “I know that!” This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. (ac)
I understand well the next page or two, am carried along and feel somewhat excited, then return to enraptured murkiness.

It’s been an amazing week. If you go back to last Saturday’s dawn of near-zero degrees and a snow cover of three or four feet, back to when I looked at the river that afternoon and it was all ice and snow with just a soft, slushy edge, it’s been an amazing week. The sun shone, it was rarely below freezing, and all the drabness of spring gurgled and cooed and moldered and steamed. Snow disappeared from the small garden bed and shoots of daffodils emerged. Tuesday morning I walked to the post office and by the time I returned and was walking up the muddy drive, skirting the larger puddles, I was stripped down to a T-shirt. The cool air drifting off the fields of snow felt good.

A neighbor checking her mailbox joined me for part of the walk, and I heard of peppers and tomatoes growing in a south window, of hay fields changing hands, of cows growing large with calf. I had been noticing the cracks in the road, some two or three inches wide, some smaller, cracks traversing the entire expanse of the black-topped, two-lane road like the perverse smiles of a Cheshire winter. Farther up the road are places marked with orange barrels where the road sinks and if you don’t slow down, wooee, you get a ride, straight up, straight down. Some places are marked only with little bent orange flags.

Wednesday a cold grey morning in the twenties. Frost on the raggedy grass and mud. For the past several days I’d been re-organizing the loft, trying to put away some of that stuff one might just stuff in a closet if one had a closet, and Wednesday morning I opened a box full of photo albums to put on a newly cleaned off shelf. You might guess what happened.

Do I really want all these photos?

Oh, here’s a good one. I’ll scan it and send to Jennifer and Jill.

I really should go through all of these and toss …

The albums cover the late 1980s through the early 2000s, but there were also some strays in the box from different eras, such as this one of the dog I grew up with.

Joey, 1957-1969.
Notice the hockey game to the right and a bit of hamster cage in the
upper left corner. We had so many hamsters. This one could have been

Kiwi, or more likely Hercules. I don’t know. And the set of books, I believe,
is the Childcraft series. Now those were great books!

Wednesday afternoon I thought I saw Sadie along the river, which now looked like this,

from the bridge, Wednesday

but I suppose it could have been any old deer with a scar on her flank. The deer have been visible, crossing the roads, walking up drives, hanging out in plowed yards, and now, finally, with the snow letting go, getting back into the fields to graze.

Sadie or Sadie’s doppelgänger?

But spring is drab. Brown and grey moldy grass, spiky brown stubble, black and brown and grey heaps of snow, sticky brown mud, dark leafless trees, slushy cold swamps, muddy swirling waters, still puddles of depths unknown. But the birds have come back and in mornings and evenings we hear the cheerio of robins, the soft hoots of mourning doves, the chatter of chickadees and the calls of the crows. This more than anything draws Elliott outside to become once again the hunter and the hunted. (We hear the coyotes at night.) He does this so seamlessly—goes from a near-vegetable stupor lounging by the fire to a sidestepping, tail akimbo, lithe and watchful being hunkered down now on the porch, alert, zeroed in on a small mouse hole at the base of a decrepit snowbank.
You explain this world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry: I shall never know. (ac)
For those of us who consider ourselves to be lonely souls—or for those of us who are simply alone—I think spring can be the hardest of seasons. It’s just not all kittens and puppy dogs and tulips. “April is the cruelest month” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” But,
Everything considered, a determined soul will always manage. (ac)
Saturday—the Saturday that was yesterday—it snowed. As that snow turned to rain, just a light sprinkle, I headed out for a walk. It was a perfect spring day. All was well, my heart was full.

from the bridge, Saturday

Below are the four sentences, unmashed.


There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. (Albert Camus)

In November 1860 popular lithographers Currier & Ives depicted the results of the most significant presidential election in the nation’s history in a most unusual fashion. (Jules Tygiel)

I find it hard to sum up in one word the character of Lucera—the effect it produces on the mind; one sees so many towns that the freshness of their images becomes blurred. (Norman Douglas)

Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. (Ernest Hemingway)