Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Falling Stars

It's the law here, I think.

Written into the by-laws and codes and codicils and heretofore and whatnot, I'm sure of it.

Every other yard must contain at least one forsythia. Every yard is preferable, but if allowed to grow wild and rangy enough, they can suffice for two yards. Some yards have more than one. Those are the ones that make you stop and look.

So it is. Every other yard: one forsythia.

It's because of March.

There were probably some pioneer founding father-type people who bought the city and named it after the chief they stole it from and set it on fire and then Jack Kerouac came for a visit and nearly killed himself from the depression here and then They made a law.*

So, here's the shake down:

January is fun. Just fun. That's usually when it snows if it's gonna. It's cold and there are such short days and long nights and scarves and pink noses and woolly sweaters and nice non-holiday related winter enjoyment.

February is a fever dream. Warm enough to make you sweat in your jacket, mid-afternoon; cold enough to keep your fingers and toes always a little bit numb. Wet and a little bit gray. But there are all the chocolates and pink things mid-month and usually lots to do at school. **

And then comes March. She marches in all lifting her skirts and huffing around and sheds copious tears until you plead with her to stop and then she smiles her dazzling smile like what? what did I do? and then back to the huffing and stomping and throwing things. I'm pretty sure Jack Kerouac visited us in March. Hence the suicidal thoughts. Because you know, it's kind of like being handcuffed to a psychotic bipolar off her meds.***

So the Forsythia Act was enacted and we all took it down a few notches and dear old Jack took himself off to Mexico or some such.****

Because here's the truth of it. The spring is so exciting with its daffodils and its crocus buds and worms and all that, but a bit of it is homesick, too. Homesick for the nights of hibernation and all this talk of regeneration, rebirth and all the lambs and chicks and chocolate bunnies and what if we aren't ready for all that new stuff? What if we want a few more days, weeks - surely no more than weeks! - of the hibernation, curled inside wet and feral, with a prehensile grip on the past. What if I didn't do it right and now it's time to burst into bloom with all the world and wear my new dress and white shoes and I don't want to. And the days get longer and you can feel it. We wind our clocks forward to feel it more and there we are in the mud with new green things unfurling and a part of you still feels furled. So March comes and slaps you around a bit and she sobs and huffs and smiles and strokes and really you just want to hide and cry because the sun comes out and it's glorious and you really feel the yard and the neighbors walking dogs and March giggles and pats your cheek and then pelts you with hail that looks like bits of Styrofoam and feels like teeth and then she sits down in a puddle with her big wet cloudy skirts and just snows enough to freeze your fingers and get the kids in their boots and she watches until just the moment they run outside and turns it to rain in big fat heavy drops that drill straight through hats and down the necks of coats and we all cry with March. I'm not ready for the long and lean days of summer and I had some more woolly-headed warm inside glow muddling to do before the muddy outside all day and such long days all of a sudden. Sudden, sodden, long days.

And the forsythia blooms. It's a shrub grown to epic tree-size, unkempt and waggly. They have such long and slender arms and look like ugly, ugly ducklings all winter long; like fingers with knobbled joints, too thin to hold a pen. They might be useless and then March. They bloom like stalwart standing rays of sun that shoot suddenly from the ground one night. And the morning is gray and they stand there and raise their fingers to the clouds covered in little stars the color of sunshine and promise and new paint. Thousands of tiny sunbursts blaze along the branches from floor to ceiling and they stand undaunted, in every other yard, a homely homage to what a bunch of small and brightly colored things can do. You drive the streets that slish and swick under your tires and you tire of the washed out grays and greens and olive drab and these crazy sentinels wave and sprinkle their buttery stars at you. It's the law.

March continues her drama and bluster and the forsythia outside my kitchen window stands taller than two tall men, one atop another, and it shines like the sun and startles me out of my slump. It sprinkles its golden stars around my deck, I collect them like stones and follow the random trail they make amid the brown wet mess of things. I'm Gretel and the way out of this foggy forest is marked by silky stars if I only follow them. Each one whispers me a little greeting and a story of what's to come. I'm weeks away from the cherries and their whipped cream sundae splendor; months from the rhododendrons and their pert mountains of impossible brightness; more months from the daisies and the peonies, the roses and the other things that thrive in the hot light of summer. For now I'll collect these brave gold stars, the good student that I am, and remember to walk one petal at a time and take them as they come. March might try to blow me to greener pastures and to frolic with the lambs, but I have more than enough left of the sodden plodding to gain my legs for the strength of summer. The forsythia told me so. It's the law.

Here's what Jack said about this: I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. I can't be sure he had forsythias in mind when he wrote this. In fact I'm quite sure he didn't. But he might have if he had come and looked out my kitchen window on such a day as this and wished the spring would wait. He might have. He might have run outside and gathered all the falling stars on my deck and run about the yard exclaiming. He definitely would have drunk the half a bottle of red wine on my counter that I opened months ago to make beef stew. I think sometimes he might have been a bit of a spaz and maybe not the best house guest.

But we might have had some things to discuss in the confusion of March with the forsythia blooming its falling stars.
Forsythia from my kitchen window. Look closely for the falling stars.

*Some of this sentence is true.

**Like catch every blessed virus that goes through the place and alternate vomiting and coughing by the week. It's like they line them up in the lunch room: "OK people! We want all respiratory ailments on the right. Dysentery and gastroenteritis - get in your line over there! Novelty viruses, rare Asian strains of things go stand on the blue square. The blue square!")

***I'm allowed to joke about such things. Ask me why.

****Actually, it's probably because he was here visiting Allen Ginsberg while A.G. was doing his whole skid row lumberjack stint up here and I read a 900 page biography of Allen Ginsberg while my Hooligan was a baby (all those newborn nights!) and believe you me, it contained more than enough detailed information to convince me that Allen Ginsberg was annoying as all hockey sticks and that might be why Jack left, too.


  1. Sweet piece...but I dare to disagree :). There is nothing fun about January. No thing. My January is dark and cranky and refuses to allow me to get warm. He is like a jailer, never letting me escape for any fun. February is January's little brother, a punk of a prison guard - slimy and swarmy but he falls asleep on the job sometimes and I can escape (at least until he wakes up and takes me prisoner again). March is a rather timid girl who tiptoes around , surely afraid of those other two. April,however? Now April is the flirty, fun beautiful girl who swings me around and for whom I will do anything,
    But that's my world....

    1. My darling Gracie! I thought of you while I wrote this. I was thinking that I knew you would disagree because your seasons are skewed a little from ours and because you love the springtime so. I love your descriptions of your months and I love how even a relatively short distance away, there is such disparity in the flow of the seasons. Your April is almost here!

    2. This is the perfect response, Gracie. Just as beautiful as Lou's original. :-)

  2. I'm just impressed that you know how to spell forsythia :)

  3. I remember those lovely yellow bushes back in New Jersey. They don't grow out here in the desert (then again, it is 82f right now and sunny)

  4. We don't get our forsythia falling stars 'til April--but it is warming a bit now and the robins and other birds are wandering back. As I was driving around the other day, I noticed that the only snow left on the ground is what's in the sheltered shadows of buildings and I wanted to cling to it a little. On the other hand, the grayness and the mud have got to go. Thanks for another beautifully done post, Lou.

  5. Your words and Jack's make a beautiful marriage. I love this talk of fallen stars.

  6. This is me, pretty much every day.

    "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."


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