Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Zen of phenology?

It's the Ides of March. At not quite 6 a.m., pre-sunrise early in this season of daylight saving time, I wonder what we're to do with the daylight we're saving. Probably the same things we do with all the labor we save with our labor-saving appliances. Meanwhile, unseasonable thunder and lightning stumble through the nearby sky. It would be great if I could add time saved each day of this soft shoulder season to the sunrises and sunsets of May or June, when there's a hatch on and the fish are rising and I'm thigh-deep in a stream, but time isn't fungible. We can't step into the same moment twice any more than we can step into the same river twice.

March rain storm
March rain storm
Photo by J. Harrington

This seasonal pondering has put me in a Simon and Garfunkle mode, enmeshed in the lyrics of Cloudy and A Hazy Shade of Winter. As Joni Mitchell magically captured Autumn's restlessness with her "Urge for Going," Simon's lyrics describe the effects on me of Spring's emergent energy as it tries to find its focus. Ice leaves the rivers and lakes; frost has left the ground but is months from ending its seasonal threat, sap is running, thunder rumbling, turkeys gobbling, birds and butterflies heading North. Waves of life return to Winter-weary North Country. The change in latent energy is palpable, becoming manifest.

late April ice cover
late April ice cover
Photo by J. Harrington

Photos of other years show ice on local ponds late into April. The amount of daylight each day grows with a more predictable pattern than the temperature progression in this season of reawakening. It's enough to make me adopt Zen's "live in the moment" and to forego expectations and anticipation of what comes next. Maybe that's close to what Donella Meadows refers to when she writes about dancing with systems? Could phenology and Zen have more in common than I thought? If "trend is not destiny," then pattern is not necessarily prediction? Should I remember to "be careful of what you wish for, you might get it?" Finally, since today is yet another "Super Tuesday," let's dedicate this poem to our presidential candidates, especially Donald Trump.

Ides of March

Be fearful of exalted rank, o soul.
And if you are unable to subdue
your aspirations — doubtingly pursue them
and with precautions. And the more you rise,
the more examining, the warier be.

And when you are arrived at the supreme
height of your glory — a Caesar, as it were:
when you are become a man so widely famed:
then specially be wary — at such time
as you come out into the thoroughfares,
a noted ruler with great following:
if peradventure, from the multitude,
some friendly person, an Artemidorus,
bringing a paper, should press near to you
and rap out sharp “Read this without delay;
herein are weighty matters touching you”,
fail not to tarry; fail not to postpone
all talk or business; fail not to turn off
the different hangers-on who bow and scrape,
(you will attend to them in time); let even
the Senate wait; — leave all, and learn at once
the grave things written by Artemidorus.

Translated by John Cavafy

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