Tuesday, March 25, 2008



Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1966; rpt. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984), pp. 19-20 (March):
One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.

A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance if finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the resolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.
Joseph Wood Krutch, The Twelve Seasons: A Perpetual Calendar for the Country (New York: William Sloan Associates, 1949), pp. 174-175 (March):
A certain blind man knew that the seasons return even though they did not return for him, and that is more than most who have eyes can boast. They live by the calendar and they know the days of the week. This, they may be able to tell you, is Friday, March 5th. But the fact is merely arbitrary and arithmetical, part of a necessary arrangement for keeping track of their engagements—most of which they would rather forget—and of their obligations—most of which are a burden. It implies no awareness of either the stars in their courses or of the natural rhythms which they do not even know they share. Perhaps there is no better symbol than this of our deliberate withdrawal from any life not poverty-stricken so far as the basic emotions are concerned, and perhaps the calendar of the savage with its "Moon of the Hunt" and "Moon of the Rains" is better. Perhaps accuracy is too dearly purchsed as the cost of such dessication.

From another year which I hope will be based in the country—if not, alas, spent continuously there—I promise myself many advantages. But none of them is more obvious or more inclusive than the privilege of being permitted to be continuously aware that I am indeed alive—for that is a fact which the city makes most people forget, and which can be appreciated only by those whose own souls feel the ebb and flow of vital tides, who build their mansion on an inlet of the sea, not on some landlocked harbor which nowhere communicates with any deeper and vaster body. Only those within whose own consciousness the suns rise and set, the leaves burgeon and wither, can be said to be aware of what living is.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Seasons:
The following notice has been put up everywhere in flaming letters for about six thousand years, according to the chronology of Archbishop Usher, and for a much longer period, if some more recent cosmogonists can be trusted:—

"Walk in, ladies and gentlemen! The wonderful exhibition of the Seasons is about to commence; four shows under one cover; the best ventilated place of entertainment in this or any other system; the stage lighted by solar, lunar, and astral lamps; an efficient police will preserve order. Gentlemanly ushers will introduce all new-comers to their places. Performance in twelve parts. Overture by the feathered choir; after which the white drop curtain will rise, showing the remarkable succession of natural scenery designed and executed solely for this planet,—real forests, meadows, water, earth, skies, etc. At the conclusion of each series of performances the storm-chorus will be given with the whole strength of the wind-instrument orchestra, and the splendid snow scene will be introduced, illuminated by grand flashes of the Aurora Borealis. Admittance free, refreshments furnished, complete suits of proper costume supplied at the door, to be returned on leaving the exhibition."

Such is Nature's programme,—worth attending to, one might think,—yet there are great multitudes who lounge into the show and out of it, after being present at as many as threescore and ten performances in succession, without ever really looking at the scenery, or listening to the music, or observing the chief actors in the great drama....In the mean time those who are really awake to the sights and sounds which the procession of the months offers them find endless entertainment and instruction.

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