A Cape Cod Notebook 3/27/07

listenThe Promise of Spring

By Robert Finch

Ah, spring! Each year the season brings the old news in new ways. And each year the challenge seems not so much to be able to predict its coming, or to be the first to spot its more conventional signs , but to respond to it however it comes, wherever it finds us, indoors or out, in sun or snow, to let it p ierce and permeate our being with merciless, original promise.

One afternoon last week, I sat waiting for a friend in the cafeteria of a local high school. I was a lone except for the student kitchen crew, which had just finished cleaning up from lunch. The crew was made up of a half-dozen boys in white aprons, white shirts and white pants. They seemed to possess a monkey-like energy and restlessness. One moment they loafed listlessly around a table, chafing at their own boredom. Then suddenly they broke out in bursts of high spirits, leaping across the floor in impromptu jumping contests, throwing plastic chairs across the room, chasing one another around the tables, shouting challenges, barbs, and hoots. And then, just as suddenly, they subsided again into sullen listlessness.

Though they were probably docile enough individually, the boys had the wildness of the pack about them, and I would not have wanted to try to handle them. They reminded me of some buffleheads I'd seen the day before in pre-courting behavior on Round Pond: a half-dozen males and females chased one another indiscriminately, rearing back their heads and then rushing forward towards one another across the water. The sudden awareness and seasonal imperatives of the self are beginning to surfac e again. Having been one myself, I pity all teachers at this time of the year.

Today, at noon, I sit outside my house eating lunch on the soaked grass, in the suns and winds of March. A light yearning breeze scrapes the last remaining oak leaves together on the branches. High above me I hear the scream of gulls. I look up and see them there where the hawks soar, sailing on bent wings a thousand feet above the house. They fly near the sun and I put my hand up to shield my eyes. The sun feels warm and close on my open palm.

On an impulse, I reach out and pluck the sun from the sky, closing my fingers around it like a golde n egg. It has a soft, plastic feel to it, like very pliable rubber or synthetic flesh. I feel I could crush it in my fist and it would return to its original shape. Its heat is constant and real but somehow distan t, as if I were still receiving it from millions of miles away.

I put the sun in my jacket pocket and keep it there all day. Every now and then I am made aware of its presence when I lean up against a tree or a door and feel its warmth, like one of those metal hand warmers wrapped in felt against my side.

After dinner, I take it out and for a while play catch with my young daughter, rolling the sun back and forth across the beech plank floor, where it brings out the grain with its shine.

I tell her, "That's 100,000 nuclear explosions every second."

"Yes," she says, "and it's very pretty, too."

Ah, spring!

Broadcast March 27, 2007