- Arts and Design
If you are as Sick of Winter as I am: Here you go.
"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer."
"Now, winter, yieldth all thy dreariness,
The cold is over, all thy frozeness,
All frost and fog, and wind's untowardness.
All sullenness, uncomely sluggishness,
Paleness and anger, grief and haggardness.
Come now the spring with all her fair arrays,
Never a cloud to stain the shining days,
Sparkle at night the starry Pleiades.
Now is the time come of all graciousness,
Now is the fairest time of gentilesse."
Sometimes in the bleakness of mid-winter days we almost lose hope of ever seeing and feeling the coming of spring again, of it ever once again being a mild, pleasant world filled with delights. Our view of life begins to harden, to freeze up like the winter's earth.
The lengthening of the days that began even during the winter is now accompanied by a quickening of the spirit warmed by the journey of Helios higher and higher in the southern skies.
Regardless of what theorists may say, our experience of Time is bounded by cycles. We can mentally conceive of Time as moving only forward, but our experience is of Time as a Circle. The seasons, the days, the years all come and go and come again. We know Time is also advancing into the future, but it does so by rolling the wheel of Time, always the same yet always different.
With the first warm rains of early spring the nights are filled with the fairy-like tinkling calls of thousands of Spring peepers. It is for us the confirmation that the winter has lost its icy hold on the land and retreats northward once again.
With each new flower that opens itself to the sun and air we feel Aldo Leopold's "curious transfusion of courage". Only here it is not the courage of silently bearing the cruel onslaughts of winter as his pines did, but instead the courage to flower; to be who we truly are, to risk the approbations of others to follow our own way regardless, knowing full well we too will fade and die. It is why the Samurai chose the Cherry Blossom as their truest symbol.
Its been a long, cold, lonely winter.
Little darling, it seems like years since its been here.
Here comes the sun..."
With the lengthening of the days, the warming of the Earth,Life 's impulses stir afresh and the skies are filled with the call to be fruitful and multiply.
Each species engages now in its most intimate dances, celebrating the most tender moments in their existence.
The air is filled now with the most incredible transformations of aroma, unrivaled by man's perfumes in their clarity and sweetness that refreshes our souls.
In rapid succession they come, not over-lapping, but following eagerly on the heels of the one before:
Daffodils, Lilacs, Bearded Irises, Wild Phlox, Grape flowers, Multiflora Roses,
One by one, or in flocks, the feathered denizens return. First those who barely left: The hawks, the Bluebirds. the laughing Robins. Then come the screeches of the Blackbirds.
Soon the arrivals are daily: Phoebes and Woodcocks, Tree Swallows then Barn Swallows, and Hummingbirds and Orioles.
And the day is filled with the songs of all those fulfilling Nature's dictum: Be fruitful and multiply. Some aching sweet, some raucous, some constantly shifting, some monotonously repetitive.
It is easy to anthropomorphize now and see Disney-like saccharine reasons behind their behaviors. But there is no need for that either. Nature is beautiful...but also deadly. But that should not lead us to mechanize Nature either.
There is a story by Chuang Tzu, the Taoist Sage, that goes like this:
One day, Lao Tzu and Confucius were standing on a bridge watching the little fish in the brook below one warm spring day.
"Look at the fish. See how they sport and play, running in and out of the shadows!" Lao Tzu said.
"You are not a fish!" Confucius snorted. "How do you know what a fish thinks?!"
"You are not me." Lao Tzu replied. "How do you know what I know?"
For those who look up, the night skies mark the seasons. Now is the time the Spring constellations hove into view majestically; The Bears,Gemini, Cancer, and Leo.
We have all but forgotten how to notice and mark the passage of the seasons by the stars. But over eons, all peoples everywhere recognized their interpretations of the pattern of the stars as easily and familiarly as we do our television stations.
And for those who look down, the rewards are everywhere as well. Incredible dramas are played out on the micro scale as well as the macro. Who are the first flowers to bloom as the snows recede? Who is the first flying pollinator to join them in their dance of life? What food sources becoming available prompt the arrival of the migrating pinioned messengers of Spring?
The answers can be read, not in letters, but there, on the ground. Bend your neck a bit, and look.
Poets and Philosophers have long ago noted the inexplicable nature of Beauty.
The branch of Philosophy called Aesthetics attempts to systematically understand why there is Beauty, how we react to it, recognize it, judge it, and create it.
The Poets do not, never have. They invite us to empathize with what they have experienced by finding just the magic words that elicit in some of their readers at least a similar experience of "Beauty". Like two people standing side by side enamored at the sight of a magnificent sunset.
Still; one cannot escape wondering. Why is there such Beauty in Nature? For whose senses were they intended? Is Beauty appreciated by other species as we do?
Does the Hummingbird experience the same thrill we feel scenting the Lilacs on the air? Does the Tiger Swallowtail feel as overwhelmed by a mass planting of fragrant Phlox as we? The Wood Frog, moving among the Lily of the Valleys, does he or she feel moved?
It is one of those rare moments to sit on sun-warmed rocks, feeling the lightened breeze wafting fragrances over you, hearing the flute-like song of the Oriole moving among the Apple blossoms over your head.
For just such moments there need be no justifications.
It simply is.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." that most poetic of philosophers, Emerson, said.
And that is true. How often have you seen among your fellow humans a complete disregard for their surroundings? Daily, everywhere.
One can be awakened from their blindness to the presence of Beauty around them, but it is rare. And that ability to be awakened depends on the nascent seed within.
"One man will derive the keenest delight from scenery, trees and foliage, fruit and flowers, the blue sky, the fleecy clouds, the sparkling sea, the ripples on the lake, the gleam on the river, the shadows on the grass, the moon and stars at night.
To another, the beauty of nature is nothing. The moon and stars shine in vain; birds and insects, trees and flowers, river and lake and sea, sun, moon, and stars give him no pleasure." - John Lubbock
Such people are to be pitied, for they are blinder than the most blind, deafer than the most deaf, and the world they inhabit is impoverished and twisted.
"One cannot learn to love beauty or to love God as one learns arithmetic. The sense of Beauty can only be given by Beauty itself. Beauty is to be found everywhere."-Alexis Carrel
"Beauty can inspire miracles."- Disraeli
The last word I give to Socrates today:
"I pray thee, oh God, that I may be beautiful within."