Perpetual Winter

Here in Minnesota we expect another winter storm tomorrow, past the midway point of April, before the snow from our early April storm has even finished melting away. The 50 degree day promised at the end of every week’s weather calendar keeps moving ahead, luring us day by day through a cold and dreary spring. This past Monday, my favorite radio show, “Bop Street” on KFAI, played a series of doleful songs about spring. I was listening passively while I finished up preparations for my class that evening, yet I could feel my mood sinking lower and lower. I caught on to the trick when Frank Sinatra’s voice began the dirge-like “Spring Is Here”: “Why doesn’t my heart go dancing? . . . Why doesn’t the breeze delight me? . . . Could it be because nobody loves me?”  Thank you, emcee Pete Lee, for making me laugh out loud.

My old dog, Leila, is on her last legs, but they still trod ahead of me at the end of the leash on our thrice-daily walks. She has tumors in snout and neck, yet she still scans every nook and cranny with her good eye and her good nostril. Dogs may be the most optimistic species on earth. Today she stood outside the butcher shop, nose in the crack of the door, tail wagging, waiting for one of the treats she knows is inside. The shop wouldn’t open for another two hours, but I stood there with her until even her tireless patience gave out and she moved on to the birdseed stash outside the Tibetan gift shop.

Cancer has struck our human family, too, fifteen years after its last appearance.  My sister is on a six-week chemo holiday, eating to put on weight, feeling her scalp turn fuzzy again without the weekly onslaught of toxins. We wait for the sun to shine on her upcoming round of scans and lab tests.

Monday evening when I pulled into the parking lot at the Loft, where I was about to teach my last class of this session, I heard a faint bird song. When I opened my car door it came clearer and I saw its source: a female cardinal at the top of a tree in the adjoining lot. She wasn’t chirping any of the formulaic patterns we recognize as cardinal sounds; she was singing a full-out melody more reminiscent of the nightingale I heard one midsummer night in Sweden. I carried that tune with me into the classroom and might be hearing it still, were it not for the news that came over the radio on my drive home after class:  a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon.

The commentators who study terrorism tell us that the attackers intend to arouse fear just as much as they intend to kill and maim. They want us to remain in a perpetual state of fear, questioning our reliance on our government’s capacity to protect us, uncertain about everything we normally take for granted, afraid even to leave our houses.

I will walk my dog again this afternoon, this evening after dark, again tomorrow, for as long as she’s capable.  I’ll be listening for the cardinals, whatever they choose to sing. I worry about the spring birds surviving the coming storm, but I’ve seen on my computer screen how the Decorah eagles, feathers soaked in the freezing rain, hunker down over their hatchlings knowing the sun will come eventually and dry them all out again. We just have to trust a bit longer.

 

 

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