Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

There’s another world that has always existed both apart from and alongside civilization. While I was sick it changed, too, in the age-old turning of the earth itself. By the time I could walk outside again, springtime had come to Tennessee.

In our yard there are violets and spring beauties and stickywillys and buttercups. The invasive but lovely deadnettle has turned the ditch next to our house into a cascading drift of purple. Every year it reminds me of Alice Walker’s words: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Out in the woods, the trout lilies are opening near toadshade and bloodroot and mayapple, all of them reaching up from the cold soil to bloom in the brief sunlight of early spring, before the trees leaf out and the forest overstory draws in all the available light.

For now, the limbs are still bare, but the songbirds have registered the mild light, as well, and their courtship season has begun. The television may be full of terror, and the terror may be growing with every passing hour, but the trees are full of music. The normally cacophonous blue jays are singing their tender whisper song, and the quarrelsome beeping of the Carolina chickadee has been transformed into a glorious four-note song of love. Birdy-birdy-birdy, the cardinal sings. Birdy-birdy-birdy-birdy. He is serenading a female, and if you follow the song to its source you might be lucky enough to see him bringing his mate a seed or a grub, demonstrating his fitness as her partner. In the avian world, a grub is an engagement ring.

Alas for the poor grubs, and also for the earthworms struggling to the surface as they escape their tunnels inundated by spring rains. But pull up a weed from the wet soil of the water-drenched garden and smell the rich life the earthworm has left behind. Just a whiff of it will likely flood you with a feeling of well-being. The scent of freshly turned soil works on the human brain the same way antidepressants do.

Here is the alternate world we need right now, one that exists far beyond the impulse to scroll and scroll. The bluebird bringing pine straw to the nest box she has chosen in a sunny spot of the yard, like the chickadee bringing moss to the nest box under the trees, is doing her work with the urgency of the ages. She has no care for me at all. Even her watchful mate ignores me as I pull weeds in the flower bed beside our driveway.

The natural world’s perfect indifference has always been the best cure for my own anxieties. Every living thing — every bird and mammal and reptile and amphibian, every tree and shrub and flower and moss — is pursuing its own urgent purpose, a purpose that sets my own worries in a larger context. And the natural world is everywhere, not just on my half-acre lot in suburbia, and not just on my favorite trails at the local parks. You can find it during a walk on city streets and in the potted plants on city balconies. It’s in the branches of the sidewalk trees as they begin to split open and change the grayscape green. It’s in the sparrows and the starlings taking nesting materials into the cracks around the windows and doorways of commercial buildings. It’s in a sky full of drifting clouds, and in the wild geese crying as they fly.

I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me too. The spring ephemerals have only the smallest window for blooming, and so they bloom when the sunlight reaches them. Once the forest becomes enveloped in green and the sunlight closes off again, they will wait for another year. Sunlight always returns the next year.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One” (New York Times, March 23, 2020)


Photo of Bluebird: The Woodthrush Shop

Comments

  1. Wow, Just WOW…. She is on to something vital there. And you too! Dear David, I see that nature is gaining massive momentum in your writing. That can only be a good development!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful, David. Thanks for sharing with us. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me too.”

    Yes, yes, yes! This captures what I have been feeling so keenly when I step out the door for my walk every day. The reassuring cadence of nature, her creatures readying for spring…surely, steadily, with hesitation or worry. They move with full faith in tomorrow’s arrival…for the alternative does not occur to them…and I find that surety unbelievably comforting.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. i absolutely love this. i love alice walker’s quote, and i’m taking long, slow walks in the park every day as my respite from the indoors, noticing the purple, among other things.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Inspiring words!

    Regards Thom

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s miraculous what happens in two weeks this time of the year.

    This was great. Thank you for sharing 🙏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is.

      I was solid, I was stable, I was waiting the way people wait for spring. There was nothing I could do about the winter but I was waiting for the sun.

      ~ Jeanette Winterson, from “Goldrush Girl” in NewStatesmanAmerica (April 9, 2009)

      Liked by 1 person

      • “People talked of “a year without a summer” back in the early 1800s when volcanic ash from the eruption of a volcano in the Orient filled the atmosphere and blocked out the sun. But no one ever talked about a year without a spring. It was as unthinkable as trying to convince someone that they had never been born.”

        ~ Ben Logan, The Land Remembers.

        Ps, like it’s remembering now

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The sunlight will always return

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette says:

    One of the most beautiful, most timely, and most gorgeously written pieces you have shared with us, David. And, of course, and as usual, most perfectly timed. Be well. We need you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nature is always the answer. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    “There’s another world that has always existed both apart from and alongside civilization.” … Margaret Renkl, from “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One” (New York Times, March 23, 2020).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a lovely invitation to let the world of nature transform us. Thank you, David, for sharing this magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Loved the Alice Walker quote and the reference to the colour purple. What a great share, Dave, thanks for doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yes to Alice Walker and the colour purple but, like Lori: “I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me too.” THIS is exactly the what. Step away from the news, both online and on TV, breathe in nature… Which I have not been able to do as it has been raining non-stop for two days!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “Sunlight always returns the next year.”

    Yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m really enjoying these Renkl posts. Going to give her a closer look!
    Hey Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love this so much! She perfectly expresses what I wish to say. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Me too Sherrie! Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I haven’t heard a quote from Alice Walker in a long time. I also want to take notice of “the alternate world we need right now.” I extra love the sentence “the natural world’s perfect indifference has always been the best cure for my own anxieties.”

        David, your post, sharing Margaret Renkl’s words brought tears to my eyes. It is very beautiful and a great reminder. I am visiting from Sherrie’s post and I am very glad she led me to you. I have subscribed to your blog and I look forward to reading more. Erica

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Just reading this makes me feel as if I’ve been for a long, slow walk through the woods, a park, on the beach (which are, sadly, closed to us). Hearing the birds singing every morning and seeing the pelicansn flying by in ‘V’ formation from the reflection of my laptop in my homemade office fills me with awe (don’t they know what we are going through) and gratitude (I’m happy they don’t) and hope. Nature lives; life goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Christie says:

    Beautiful passage…Monday here was sunny..one of the neighbors grouping of fruit trees stunning covered in brilliant white blooms…had hoped to walk past again that day with my camera, that didn’t happen the rain started and continues snapped a few shots in the rain the shots are nothing like the would have been on the sunny day the blossoms start fading after several days and the sun is not cooperating 🙂 My forsythia is heading out the Maple is opening, the daffodils, fading, the tulips starting to open, the cottonwood leafing, apple tree buds have opened, neighbor’s current, candy tuft, purple liopsperm? and the smell of the neighbor’s Daphine is amazing…This morning just barely after 5 am between rain showers I took the dog out on his lead, I had a long zipped up coat over my nightgown it was in the 30’s brr while he pranced and sniffed I stood still saw a few stars and listened to the two Owls across the road and up in the timber…I so loved having that moment of communion listening to those owls it was such a gift…ah as I write the clouds have parted a little and I see blue sky 🙂 dear hubby and daughter are masked and gloved up as they went to the grocery store earlier to pick up some essential that store has a garden center they bought some little geranium, fushia,bocopa, lobelia, starts a yearly tradition…for summer beauty. So hopeful for summertime!

    Liked by 1 person

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