<%-- Page Title--%> A Roman Column <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 152 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 30, 2004

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An Over-rated Season

Neeman A Sobhan

Yes, I bead Sbrig (Yes, I mean Spring). Ad yes, by dose is blogged (And yes my nose is blocked). Oh! For heaven's sake, I can't provide a running translation. What's so difficult about understanding my cold-congested language? Healthy people are so irritating when you are ill! Cough! Achoo! Yes, I am sick and cranky and it's all the fault of this treacherous season. You can sing your paeans to spring, but I shall withhold my praises for I know where it gets its name from: springing unpleasant surprises, allergies, infections and viruses on unwary humans.

Here in Italy where seasons are neatly demarcated, spring is the tricky one, chirpy and bright as a summer's day one moment and blubbering with rain and cold as winter the next. Robert Frost put it well: "The sun was warm but the wind was chill./You know how it is with an April day/When the sun is out and the wind is still,/You're one month on in the middle of May./But if you so much as dare to speak,/A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,/A wind comes off a frozen peak,/And you're two months back in the middle of March." On just such a capricious April day, you forget your coat and rush out to embrace it, and suffer the consequences. After two decades of reading Frost and living in Europe, I am as clueless about the vagaries of spring as ever.

Poets write relentlessly about spring as the harbinger of life and regeneration but never wax eloquent about it as a health hazard. Just two weeks ago I myself was quite embarrassingly rapturous during my (coatless) morning walk and gazed with luminous eyes at the green buds prickling the dry branches of trees, the hedges sprouting tender new leaves and the tulips and lilacs blooming overnight. I came home with a spring in my step and a poem in my heart; at the same time, unbeknownst to me, I also brought home with me the seeds of an allergy, to pollen perhaps, and a flu virus in my unsuspecting system. The next day I was down with fever. When T.S.Eliot called April 'the cruellest month' he must have been full of antihistamines and analgesics like me.

Oh! Poets and lovers, keep your romantic assignation with flighty young spring; just give me a mature and stable season that knows its mind and can be my friend. Give me a robust summer's day any time. At least summer doesn't lead you up the garden path, create illusions about a pristine paradisiacal world and them ambush you with invisible germs and infections. You know the discomforts of summer-- the heat, sweat and flies--and are ready for it. Winter, too, in its brutal honesty lets you know the hardy truth about itself. You are prepared. But frivolous spring flirts and seduces with its heady sweetness, makes airy promises about joy and fresh beginnings yet often brings in its wake disease and false starts. In Italy no one plants their garden until the season has settled into early May, and neither do they put away their coats, sweaters and stockings till then.

Since spring is equated with newborn life, youth has often been compared to this season. This is a facile and simplistic simile at one level, but true at a deeper level. I once read a collection of short stories for young adults called 'An Over Praised Season.' It referred to adolescence as that season of life, which, like spring, is more often idealized by the romantically inclined and not seen as a time of awkwardness and adjustments; acne and puppy fat; self-doubts and growing pains; first love and heartbreaks; dreams and disillusions; in other words, a tough transition point into adulthood.

I asked around and found that many adults looking back on their teens and twenties agreed that they were quite relieved when spring passed out of their life. Most well-adjusted and confident middle-aged people felt that they had wrested their subsequent poise and sense of self through the rites of passage of the turbulent, youthful years, but would not like to revisit that period.

Certainly, as in nature so in life, spring is neither easy nor to be trusted. It is a picture window from which to contemplate the promise of beauty and life. It is a time to dream and hope and prepare and wait while being wary and wise. Naturally the young are not meant to, nor will follow this advice. Spring as a season and a stage in life beckons youth to stand on the springboard and take the plunge into the awakening world, whatever be the consequence, whatever the mistakes, whatever the eventual lessons. Even I am still learning, and I ain't no spring chicken! Since I cannot stop myself from falling in love with life each spring, next year, I will protect myself at least against the health dangers of this capricious season: I'll take allergy and anti-flu shots and keep my stockings on. As they say, if you can't be good, be careful.

But to stick to the image of seasons as metaphors for stages of life, I am happiest out of spring and in the summer of my flowering. I am more comfortable with who I am and like myself better now. This is my preferred season of life, where my body, mind and spirit are in harmony. I hope in terms of creativity and personal growth, it will be a long and fecund summer. When autumn knocks on my body's door, I hope at least my mind and spirit will ignore this transitional season for as long as they can and go directly into the winter of life still warm from summer. (Hmmm…..this must be a side effect of the medication I'm on, this going off on metaphoric and philosophical tangents! Bear with me!)

My personal sense of time is about timelessness; I reject the idea of life or of aging dictated by numerical calendars (1411 or 2004 are irrelevant to body and mind), accepting only the natural rhythms and wisdoms of seasonal transformations as they unfold in my physical and spiritual experiences.

Today, as my nose slowly unblocks and I smell the crisp new air on my first walk outdoors after my recovery, my heart lifts to see the flowers, and hear the chirping birds, but I am still wary. Spring is an inspiring season but too evanescent, restless and unreliable to be my internal season. I prefer the solid certainty of a season I can trust and live with. It arrives everyday as I grow into this phase, where growth, creativity, ripeness (euphemism for aging!) and regeneration are balanced by peace, inner beauty, continuity and a sense of rooted-ness in the essential truths of nature. About this my ideal season Oliver Wendel Holmes said: "For him in vain the envious seasons roll/ Who bears eternal summer in his soul."

For the moment, if I can just get rid of this eternal sniffle in my nose. Pass the tissues. Achoo!






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