Sunday, April 4, 2010

Recover'd Greenness

Thank you all for the wonderful lines of poetry in the previous post's comments! If people want to continue to leave favorite lines of poetry (please do!), I'll post them all together later.

Yesterday I jotted down scraps of poems as I walked around the lake. Half wrong, mostly, and now I see the lines from a poem I wanted to post this Easter morning are actually from two different poems:

Who would have thought my shrivl'd heart
Could have recover'd greeness?
What is all this juice and all this joy?

[Top lines: from The Flower by George Herbert (1593–1633)
Bottom line: from Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins.]
Fair enough--they both catch the surprise one feels at recovering from desolation--whether that's the desolation of winter or grief.

Living in Minnesota, I love how we all react like startled cats when spring jumps out at us one. more. time.

The deep surprise of recovery from grief, though, is on a different order of magnitude, or it was for me.
It's not that we don't expect spring to return,
it's just that winter's so very l o o o o o ng, we kind of forget we expect spring.

But the desolation of grief felt final to me, like death not sleep.
I figured I would be OK in the long run, you know, but never fully well again.

But it turned out my heart was like the Easter basket made of willow my friend Laura left sitting in her basement laundry sink.
In the dark, damp place, the willow branches started to sprout.
Laura is a gardener, and she took one of the branches and planted it next to the pond in her backyard. Now she has a young willow tree.

Anther of my favorite images of surprise at the return of life is Rembrandt's sketch of Mary Magdalene mistaking the risen Christ for a gardener (the first image).
Her smile when she recognizes him is my favorite.

But I actually prefer the Christ Rembrandt's student drew (second image), with his casual pose.
I'd like to put elements of the two drawings together: Mary's smile and Jesus' lean.

(I guess the idea that she thought he was a gardner came from a misreading of the original text, but it is a happy mistake:
of course the resurrected Christ is a gardener, like my friend Laura with her willow branches.)

I recognize Mary's sweet relief from dreams:
my mother and my friend Jim, both dead, have both appeared to me in dreams, and my feeling is like nothing else.
Herbert's lines about "recover'd greenness" grabbed me many years ago.
Reading his poem again now, I see there's more to it than I caught back then:
it's also about the surprising power of renewal after the passing of youth.

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.


I was surprised, too, to read that Samuel Taylor Coleridge called this "a delicious poem" because I'd thought describing something as "delicious" was a 21st century thing, but seems it's been around before. Of course.

Finally, I've written before about how deeply grateful I am for rock 'n' roll and Captain Kirk:
both expressions of that same life force.
Their surprising power represents to me another line of poetry, Dylan Thomas's
"the force that through the green fuse drives the flower".

(Poem here.)

And now, I'm off to brunch.
Happy Easter!
Top image: left: "Christ as a Gardener Appearing to Mary Magdalene," Rembrandt, about 1640.
Bottom image: Same title: once credited to Rembrandt, this drawing is now credited to his student Ferdinand Bol.
(Both from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.)

More on Rembrandt and His Students, courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum


Anonymous said...

If anybody/thing will ever keep me glued to a keyboard for x amount of time, it is this blog, your plunging, splashing/floating/soaring gift to the universe, Fresca darling! I love the Rembrandt and student sketches. There seems to be some flirtation going on between Jesus and Mary M. in each work. (When I was in fifth grade I became obsessed with Rembrandt and Van Gogh due to a wonderful public school art teacher and the biography projects I created. My Aunt Bea took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an all day field trip in the City and we spent the whole day there, looking and talking about the artists and their work. Funny, they are from the nation that developed its own obsession with bulb flowers, which some Dutch trader or another saw in Anatolia--(I have an icky feeling that tulip bulbs had much to do with the cancerous growth of kapitalism)...and there is that spring infatuation with bulb flowers and the Easter yardngarden industry! (I'm going back to dig in my garden after this.) Last night, I did purchase a wonderful purple hyacinth with an incredibly heady scent to bring as a gift for our hosts for Greek Easter this afternoon. and when I returned to the dinner table I was sharing with friends, I brought up Laura's name and work as an artist astrologer in keeping with the stream of conversation. Of course, she is a gardener, too! Your telling of her willow basket sprouting in the dark and damp is a delicious parable. The need we have for the dark the damp the light the sere for growth. Veriword is "ecatio" which sounds like a Greek or Spanish hortatory.

Ecatio And Love!


femminismo said...

The sprouting basket is indeed a wonderful parable. We need the winter - the dark and damp - I guess, in order to rest our senses for the riot that is spring. Thank you for the poems. And, yes, reading your blog is always a treat. And I don't throw out comments like that lightly!

deanna said...

Happy Easter, Fresca! While I can't do justice in a comment to any of your posts that I've missed while being sick this week (still am, but am feeling better), I'll say thanks for Mary's smile. Lovely thoughts all round.

I've loaned out my favorite poetry book, by Wendell Berry, but here's a line from his poem, "Marriage," that might fit many relationships and is one of my very favorites: "It is healing. It is never whole."

Happy Spring, too. :o)

Fresca said...

STEF: Thank you!
Yeah, you know those Dutch went so crazy or tulip bulbs, it was causing social chaos and the government finally stepped in to regulate prices!
Round and round we go...

FMNSMO: And thank you too!
I really really like writing this blog, and it's way better if people like reading it too.

DEANNA: Happy Easter to you too!
What great lines from Berry--they seem to me to apply to all of life.
Healing, never whole.
I read that poem many years ago--I had a friend who guided his marriage by it (until he got divorced)-- I will look it up again.

It's wonderful: in just the past two days, poetry has been popping up like dandelions--I love them both.

Margaret said...

Happiest Easter, Fresca, willow tree of blogging splendor!

Herbert's lines soothe me, though for different reasons, I think.
It's like when my 8th grade English teacher wrote on some very moody, it-may-as-well-be-the-end-of-the-world paper I handed in:
"It DOES get better. I promise."

The casual Jesus pose immediately made me think of what you said about the Captain "draping" himself on everything.

Fresca said...

Hey Margaret:
Oh, yeah--now I tilt my head and squint, I can see the poem as a sort of promise too! Neat-o.

Heh, heh, and the "draping" Jesus yes... Kirk does assume all these classical poses doesn't he? I noticed you posted him crucifixion-style. (But I agree with you, he's not particularly Christlike.)