You can barely see them, jutting from the naked branches of the trees. Tiny buds with nearly microscopic filaments, the first scouts of spring. Soon the trees will explode into bursts of lace and perfume. Spring is short here in the Central Valley. February teases us with days of pastel sun and fresh bloom before plunging us back into the last deluges of grey. The clouds of pink and white are ephemeral, soon dashed to the ground by storms and replaced with sedate leaves.
Those early petals and first sparks of February sun invade my mind each year, burrowing into my body and igniting a cascade of restless energy that builds inside me. This time of year, I can sympathize with the kids who linger at recess and stare out of windows, dreaming of puddles, new grass, and tree houses. I can sympathize with teens, squirming with prickly hormones, dreaming of fast cars and hot dates.
Spring is dangerous, deceptive in its pretty dress of virginal lace and flower. The gentle colors and soft winds belie the Siren song blown on the winds, calling us into the wild. An NPR piece leads with the statement that, “Almost no musical work has had such a powerful influence or evoked as much controversy as Igor Stravinsky's ballet score “The Rite of Spring”.” Stravinsky knew what he was about. Spring is not gentle or kind; it fills humanity with the darkness of creativity. It pulls us into primal places where sense has no meaning or purpose.
We associate spring with new life. Our modern symbols include fluffy ducks and chicks, pastel eggs dotted with cartoon stickers, and plush bunnies. These safe, plasticized trinkets seek to tame the fear of spring’s wilderness. We prefer to forget that life is born of fire, passion, and pain. Even in the Christian tradition of sacrifice and rebirth that is Easter, we focus on the rolling away of the stone, rather than upon the darkness of Christ’s Passion, where ‘passion’ means suffering.
To create – life or art -- is to break something: to break boundaries, to break rules, to break the barriers of propriety that we set upon ourselves and to delve into the wilderness of desire and madness. The new shoot or bloom destroys its hard casing, abandons protection to grow. In the mayhem of spring, nature calls to us to do the same – to cast aside our safe shells, to expand, to thrust ourselves fully into the ephemeral splendor of our lives, to call upon the wild power stirring within us.
Summer will come soon, bringing the lassitude of long, hot days, of shady leaves and sedate afternoons. The heat will drain the restless energy from us, and we will be sensible once again. But for now, the recklessness that is spring begins to stir. Can you feel it?