Monday, May 18, 2020

Signs of Spring

The Longed-for Sun by Enrique Martínez Celaya 
The signs of Spring are all around us: plants returning from dormancy, flowers blooming, and bees reappearing. Spring shows us a resurgence of life after longer nights and colder weather. This season inspires artists, writers, and film makers with themes of renewal, birth, and love, and is the study of naturalists and ecologists around the globe. Though current quarantine measures may reduce our exposure to this treasured season, this post aims to bring you the spirit of spring, from different perspectives.

An early naturalist, John Muir, asks his reader to imagine wandering through a glacier meadow north of Soda Springs in his book, The Mountains of California:

"With inexpressible delight you wade out into the grassy sun-lake, feeling yourself contained in one of Nature's most sacred chambers, withdrawn from the sterner influences of the mountains, secure from all intrusion, secure from yourself, free in the universal beauty. And notwithstanding the scene is so impressively spiritual, and you seem dissolved in it, yet everything about you is beating with warm, terrestrial, human love and life delightfully substantial and familiar. The resiny pines are types of health and steadfastness; the robins feeding on the sod belong to the same species you have known since childhood; and surely these daisies, larkspurs, and goldenrods are the very friend-flowers of the old home garden. Bees hum as in a harvest noon, butterflies waver above the flowers, and like them you lave in the vital sunshine, too richly and homogenously joy-filled to be capable of partial thought. You are all eye, sifted through and through with light and beauty" (1894, p. 129).

Not long after Muir's wanderings through California wilderness, a famous play made its debut in France. In 1913, Stravinsky's ballet, The Rite of Spring, was first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées to an audience shocked by the ballet's violence. It wasn't long before the ballet was banned, though the original choreography has been recreated in a 2008 performance by the Mariinsky Ballet, at the Mariinsky Theatre, in St. Petersburg.

In addition to ballet and music, spring inspires artists working with paint and other media. For example, Enrique Martínez Celaya's work, "The Longed-for Sun" is featured above, and is just one piece by Celaya that incorporates feelings and imagery of Spring. You can view more of his work in ArtStor, such as "The Link of Tree and Sun." If you find Celaya's work intriguing, you can view others at his personal website

Poetry is another form in which a reader can identify the influence of Spring. Although countless examples exist, Yang Mu's poetry is available in a bilingual edition with Chinese side by side with English in the book, Forbidden Games & Video Poems: The Poetry of Yang Mu and Lo Ch'ing. Here is an excerpt of Mu's striking poem, "Spring Song," originally written in 1985, which describes a conversation with the first robin of the year:

He has now stopped in front of the bonsai pine 
Peering left and right. 
The last of the snow on the roof 
Melts rapidly, pouring in torrents into the flower bed— 
"Perhaps my heart just might be greater 
Than the universe," in challenge 
I glare at his short beak, eager and speechless 

His feathers polished from extended flapping in southern reaches 
In a season of dumb indecision 
They are the most reliable light: "Otherwise 
What would guide you during your travels?" 

"I rely on love," he says 
Suddenly raising the level of the discussion 
Beating his glittering wings, jumping into the clump of chrysanthemums 
That were planted last fall and have managed to live through the harsh 
"Relying on the strength of love is a common 
Concept, a type of praxis. Love is our guide" 
He stands among the green leaves and the moss-speckled stones 
Abstract, distant, like a teardrop 
In the rapidly warming air, he shakes himself plump 
"Love is the goddess of the heart... " 
How much more so 
Now that spring has come

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