Spring. Grass is green and growing. Early leaves are taking the place of blossoms of the cherry and apple trees. Other trees are budding, some are leafing. There is often the sweet smell of flowering things. Bees are back. Light is stronger, more evident even on overcast days. Now is the time of full awakening and new growth.
Listening. In spring, I listen to Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, which he named “Spring.” This year my reaction was less positive than in years past. “It’s a nice early Romantic work,” I thought. I listened to his Symphony No. 2 and liked it better. There is classic underpinning, and the ideas are more intensely expressed. I love the third movement, Adagio expressivo, which the editor to the program notes of my London Jubilee recording calls “one of the loveliest orchestral movements ever conceived by Schumann.” (Solti, Weiner Philharmoniker, copyright Decca, 1989). Okay, maybe. I love it becauses it is understated, with beautiful balances of sections of the orchestra. The short fugue section moves the music to the intellect, and the ending section carries it back to the heart. (If you have about eleven minutes, enjoy the piece on YouTube. Find Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and enjoy a blessing.)
Nonfiction. Jeremy Denk, “Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Life in Piano Lessons,” The New Yorker, April 8, 2013. This excellent essay is about learning and teaching, practicing and performing, and loving music. A concert pianist, Denk is an eloquent writer, who approaches his subjects with understanding and genial spirit. This essay has already become one of my favorites.
Fiction. John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men (1937). Steinbeck’s skillful use of foreshadowing, juxtaposition of characters, and use of flat characters to highlight traits of round characters lead quickly to the inevitable and harrowing ending. Unforgettable is the plight of the crippled black stable buck, Crooks. The title is brilliant use of allusion. Several characters long for lives different from those of their reality. I wonder if William Inge was thinking of the work when he wrote his play Bus Stop and “People in the Wind,” the one act play on which it is based.
Two Childhood Visions. Visiting the place I lived from one-to-seven years old, I remember two childhood visions:
(1) I was playing with Disney figurines in the sandy bottom of the ditch in the front yard while Dad was working in the yard. When he finished, we drank iced tea together, seated side by side on the doorsteps. I said, “When will Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck and Daisy Duck come to visit us?” He said, “Maybe they will come one day, Billy.” I smiled, and looking up into the sky I saw a perfect image of Daisy Duck in the one cloud above the yard.
(2) I was lying on the cool carpet in the living room. I had traded my friend next door four marbles for one piece of bubble gum. Bubble gum was strictly forbidden, and I knew that nobody would think to look for me here. I relaxed, and as I enjoyed the forbidden sweetness, I closed my eyes and told myself my favorite story, “The Three Bears.” When I finished, I looked toward the front door and saw them looking in, one at each of the graduated panes of glass. I went to the door, but they left before I could open the door.
About twenty years later, one of my nieces, who had not yet started school, said, “Uncle Bill, sometimes I see things.” I answered, “Isn’t it fun?!”
Thank you for reading. I hope this spring will bring us all some magic.