It's been one of those weeks. The weather here in the upper Midwest is a ready-made metaphor: it is mid-April, just after Easter, we should be having tulips and bunnies and crocuses and sunny days in the upper 50s.
Instead, we've had snow. Cold. Dreary gray skies with the occasional peek of sunlight which should in no way be taken to be a sign of warm air. Still, it is still spring. The leaf buds on the lilac are getting fuller. The box elder on campus are starting to show tiny green leaves. Robins gather in bare branched trees and sing. I am reminded that for much of the natural world, spring is not all that great. Resources are still slim while demands are higher as everyone tries to procreate at the same time. Many animals die in the spring, many barely get the chance to live. We want it to be only about new life and rebirth, to put the darkness of winter behind us, but spring can have a darkness of its own.
This week began with learning that removing half of Grandma's left lung did not entirely remove cancer from her body, and she will most likely be undergoing chemotherapy. We don't know much more yet; we hope that the news is not really as bad as it sounds.
This morning we learned that a friend of a friend – someone we know tangentially, true, but we know his wife, we know their friends – the husband died last night. He'd been sick for a while, and worse in the last few weeks, but still. He and his wife have darling twins, a boy and a girl, just about the same age as Cora.
And, in between these more winter-like events, Kurt Vonnegut died, too. Someone I knew not at all, except through his books. Well, his older books. I've fallen out of touch with Vonnegut in the last eighteen years or so, but he was one of the first authors (who didn't write for children) that I worked my way through. In high school I read everything by him that our local library branch had. So I've always had a fondness for him.
In the NYT obituary for Kurt Vonnegut, I found this quote:
To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”
I remember reading this novel, though I didn't remember that quote. But it seems like an appropriate one to be reminded of this week, when so many things are feeling so fragile. This seems like a very spring-like thought to have. A bright-sunshine-cutting-through-cold-air thought. And today we do have sunshine, and the mercury is creeping up to forty degrees.
Cora is napping, but will wake soon, and when I go upstairs and she sees me round the corner of the hallway, she will sit up and clap her hands. When I bring her downstairs and we sit on the rug with her toys she will crawl over to Mr Froggy or to CourderoyBear or to FireDog and, as she does these days, pick up the animal, hold it to her shoulder, and pat its back while saying what sounds like “tickle tickle tickle.”
It is spring, whether it feels like it or not. And in honor of spring, all the people I love, time being short, and the one rule, I have not given my students homework this weekend.