Friday, March 9, 2018

Good enough

"The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."
--Samuel Johnson*

I like this statement from Johnson--it's so concise, punchy even. It's such a nice answer to the question of why people should ever bother with a task as uncertain as writing.

On this topic, I'm also partial to a line from Sylvia Plath. The poet narrator of Plath's The Bell Jar defends her avocation (in her mind, in response to a condescending remark from her med-student boyfriend) as "writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn't sleep." It struck me the first time I read it, and has remained, one of my favorite explanations for what writers give the world.

Opening doors. Providing illumination, or comfort, or knowledge, or recognition. It's a good enough way to spend a life.

*from Johnson's review of Soame Jenyns' "Free Enquiry into the Nature of the Origin of Good and Evil," per Apocrypha, the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite page

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spring cycles

We have been out greeting the spring this weekend.

Despite the fact that the weekend began with a blustery dose of snow, spring is definitely creeping  up on us. The snowdrops are up; the witch hazel is blooming; the crocuses and early cherry trees are starting. I've even seen daffodils and one brave, early dandelion.

We heard young frogs croaking, and birds are pairing up and working on nests. The sun is warmer, even if the wind is cold. You can smell the earth again, as the slushy snow melts into the mud.

We visited an eagle's nest today, because at this time of year we usually see them tending to eggs or nestlings. But half the nest was wrecked by winter weather, and the birds weren't there. According to the park ranger, the eagles are hanging around and have done some repairs, but they may not produce young this year, an eagle's nest being a major construction project.

On the other hand, there's hope for the red-tail hawks at Cornell this year. After years of successful nests, last year brought tragedy: the sudden death of the male right at the start of mating season. The female found a new mate, with whom she is working on one of her old nests, and maybe we will see more young this year.

The rituals of nature are comforting. Plants and animals face change, adversity and loss; they don't always have happy endings. But they keep blooming, nesting, feeding. They live out their own stories, of which we catch occasional glimpses.