Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Season of Hope

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read the published version of Nancy Ling's column in the April 16, 2015 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Spring. The word itself puts a bounce in our step. After this harsh winter, it might make us take flight. Besides being a seasonal change, spring gives us a sense of hope. Life is opening around us. The smell of soil and blossoms greet our mornings. We can hear the cardinal’s song again. Best of all, we are no longer rushing from car to house in order to avoid becoming a human icicle. We’ve started to shed a layer of two.
Sometimes in the middle of the darkest of winters, we think that spring will never come. We look at life through winter lenses. Still, as Emily Bronte penned, “No coward soul is mine.” While battling winter storms, New Englanders bound together. Our reward? Not only did we beat the record (“snowiest season ever in Boston”), but we are standing strong, ready to enjoy the spring that awaits us. As I penned in one of my poems entitled Another New England Winter:
Come March, we notice first buds unfurling. We crack our windows; let in light breezes. They carry pollen, fresh and sticky to our sills. We are winter survivors, lovers of spring. New Englanders are a hearty lot, for sure. It’s hard to believe that two years ago this month we were challenged beyond the imaginable. Into a spring day that was filled with hope and longing after months of training and hardship, came the Boston Marathon bombing. The heartache of that day will never leave us. With the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaov now playing out before us, we’ve had a constant reminder of that day when our lives were changed forever. And yet we emerged “Boston Strong,” with strength from an attack that was meant to leave us fearful and hopeless. In their book, “Long Mile Home,” Scott Helman and Jenna Russell recount the events of the Marathon bombing and the “epic hunt for justice.” As reporters for The Boston Globe, Helman and Russell focused on the lives of five people and how this tragedy brought them together. In The Washington Post (4/4/2014), Lenny Bernstein writes that this story “is also a portrait of a major American city, its psyche and the distance runners who consider the race a sacred rite.” What I found most impressive was the bittersweet beauty that emerged out of this dark day. Lives were destroyed and lives were forever altered, but those who survived became stronger. Miners are another group of people who step into darkness on a daily basis. Published in September 2014, “Deep Down Dark” is the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Héctor Tobar. Tobar recalls the collapse of the San Jose Mine outside of Coipipo Chile. He was granted exclusive access to the miners and their stories. In August 2010 the world watched this event unfolding, mesmerized for days, awaiting an outcome. Would 33 miners survive their entrapment thousands of feet beneath the earth for sixty nine days? At times the men felt the cave was their coffin, but they came to see it as a church, and their sheer determination to believe in the possibility of their survival was a miracle in itself. After emerging into the light, the men continued to experience recurring nightmares Still they are changed people after facing death. As survivors they are kinder to others now, and they spend more time with their loved ones. Surprisingly, many have returned to their life as miners. As one miner, Luis Urzúa said: “That’s the life of a miner.” Beloved poet, Donald Hall, is also a survivor of winter’s darkness. After his wife, Jane Kenyon, passed away from cancer, Hall took to words and poetry to lament this passing. He wrote many poems to Jane, eventually naming his collection “Without.” As the book jacket describes: “Without” will touch every feeling reader, for everyone has suffered loss and required the fellowship of elegy. “Without” is “Hall’s greatest and most honorable achievement—his gift and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.” Like the Bostonians and the miners, Hall doesn’t remain in the depths of despair. He rises from it. His book moves through grief, but it reaches toward spring as well. In one poem entitled “Letter After a Year,” Hall describes his visit to his wife’s grave, one year later.
Last week the goldfinches flew back for a second spring. Again I witnessed snowdrops worry from dead leaves into air. Now your hillside daffodils edge up, and today it’s a year since we set you down at the border of the graveyard on a breezy April day. Hall welcomes spring and the blooming of daffodils. The start of a new life is possible, even if it begins next to his wife’s grave. After this hard winter we, too, want to move beyond the drifts and darkness. Perhaps it’s best to concentrate on the idea of spring as a verb—“to be resilient, or elastic,” “to grow forth as a plant,” “to stretch out in height.” Essentially in spring we are rising up from the dark rich soil. Like you, I have journeyed through many winters. As I wrote in my poem, Awakenings:
I await first droplets, Sun on snow, Snow into water, first steamy risings loosenings, flow. After all, we are “winter survivors, lovers of spring.”