Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Time for a season of mercy? #phenology

Late Winter through early Spring is often a time of hunger for many in our North Country. The edible bounty from last Autumn has been largely consumed and fresh growth awaits snow melt, warmer days, and "April showers" precipitating rain, not snow. While dog-walking a bit ago, it started to sprinkle. RAIN! We need rain. Gazing across the roadside field, we noticed how soft the countryside has started to look. Leaf-out on the trees is fleshing out the spaces among skeleton branches. Trees are again becoming rotund, Rubenesque, almost.

our "neighborhood" has yet more wild plum trees
our "neighborhood" has yet more wild plum trees
Photo by J. Harrington

Accompanying such arboreal developments, grass is greening and growing. That probably accounts for our discovery this morning of the first tick of the season (on us). It was crawling across the base of our neck. We realize that it's much more likely the arachnid crawled up our leg and under our sweatshirt, but we have more of an impression that it dropped from a tree's new green leaf onto us. Do you remember the scenes from Star Wars, with the Ewoks on Endor?

Back to Earth, the softness of our landscape and the gentleness of the falling rain brought to mind the line from the Merchant of Venice, about "droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath." We think the last time we read much of Shakespeare was when we were still in college and that was many years ago. Looking at today's poem, we can see great value in revisiting at least some of his works. Contemporary writers seem keep coming up short on the quality of and need for mercy. An understandable but very regrettable state of affairs. If memory serves, mercy is implicit in the works of writers such as Charles Bukowski, Philip Levine and Raymond Carver, but not expounded on as Shakespeare does. Does that help explain why too many of us may fail to execute on the fundamentals of being human?

wild plum blossoms herald Spring's arrival
wild plum blossoms herald Spring's arrival
Photo by J. Harrington

Before we go today we want to publicly acknowledge and thank the Better Half for, once again, bailing us out. She correctly, we believe, identified as wild plum the flowering bushes we recently posted about. (Our story [that we're sticking to for now] is that we speculated several weeks ago that that's what we thought they might be and just hadn't gotten around to confirming it


The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
[The quality of mercy is not strained]



William Shakespeare15641616


The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, 
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.


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