Full-blown Brittany Blues

West of Brest, Brittany, France

West of Brest, Brittany, France

I’ve decided I don’t like spring. I’m embarrassed to say that because most people I know get giddy about the season. Sure, the lacy look of lilac-laden limbs knocks me sideways. And you just can’t beat violets, daffodils, iris, poppies, and the rest of the gaudy, gauzy palette. Those little chartreuse tips working up through snow and soil thrill my soul, no matter weed or pea. Songs swoop and soar, sweet words lilt off lips, bodies luxuriate in warmth and sore muscles. Bursting with energy, it’s all grand. So what’s not to like?

First, there too much sex in the air. It’s like living with a passel of teenagers. Hours-long preening, silly and seductive lies, passionately petty squabbles, chaotic confusion and dramatic exits wallop me like Tchaikovsky tympani. crash crash crash crash BOOM! And, it’s everywhere. The birds are outright hussies but even the plants are ostentatious, flaunting all they’ve got right in front of me.

Second, winter and spring cannot decide who’s onstage and they bicker about it for months, wearing everyone and everything to a frazzle. Winds moan and groan, whistle and whine, trumpet, holler, and play the piccolo all night long. Some numbskull tom cat yowls at our windows from midnight to 3:00 AM and the four spayed girls pummel me as they race back and forth across the bed following him and warbling to be let out the door. Personally, I can’t fathom their dither and I end up greeting each morning bleary-eyed and grumpy. Do I need a fire? Yes. I build one, get too hot, go outside, sunburn, freeze, come in, build a fire, get too hot, go outside, sunburn, freeze, come in, build a fire.

We’re kinda arid right now out here where I live in the red-stone upper western corner of the Llano Estacado. I think this is the fifteenth or sixteenth, maybe the twelfth, year of severe drought; depends on who’s telling the story, but we all agree it’s damn dry. We’re in the national news as a slap-down to the folks in Massachusetts who might yip a bit about their weather. Those flouncy winds I introduced earlier tease us pitifully with rain potentials. They’ll rustle up some dark and mighty rainy-looking clouds five times a week, spend the day rolling them our way, get close enough for us to smell the rain, and then dribble an eighth inch on our ecstatic upturned faces. I’m serious. In the past two weeks three-eighths an inch of rain filled our gauges. Three weeks before that we got almost an inch. It’s dry.

Spring also ramps up my addiction to gardening, as its designed to do. There’s something wondrously special about dirt, broken fingernails, back spasms and promises of glory that grabs my full attention. With the first hint of impending warmth, I begin my schemes about besting the weather. Each year I believe I’ll finally plant the perfect New Mexican combination of vegetables and herbs to survive the wind, the drought, the late freeze, the early summer, the plague of grasshoppers, the el Niño flooding in June and September. When I lived in Colorado I grew fabulous medicinal herbs—my luxurious mother’s wort was six feet tall and I harvested more than a pound of Roman chamomile from that tiny backyard in Denver. Gosh, I was proud of those beautiful plants! Down here I can only work my magic with some flowers and a few culinary herbs. All vegetables die a pitiful death. It’s embarrassing since many of my friends are extraordinary farmers. But anyway, spring forces me to remember unholy failures and accept that I’m a dilettante gardner. Piffle.

Why else do I hate spring? Because it’s short and outrageous and I want the flowering and flirting to last and last and last. Because every fruit bud and green leafy thing can freeze in minutes and often does; I witnessed a hard freeze in mid-June that ruined nearly all fruit crops in my favored fertile valley. Because spring’s very capricious nature fills me with hope and deflates my enthusiasm several times a day. Because I’m manic-depressive and this hourly dance revs my hope to breaking point as I plummet to Earth.

But really? After stoically surviving and heroically thriving through sixty high plateau desert springs, how could I possibly come to loathe this splendid season of renewal?

Last year in May I went to Brittany. As the plane circled Brest, fields of yellow flowers hemmed in by verdant vines draping grey stones welcomed my eyes to an undreamed extravaganza. An aroma of rich soil and flowers greeted me as I drove the rental car away from the plane fumes. I spent a week driving down well-tended, narrow country roads, exclaiming at herd after herd of undoubtedly the most beautiful cows I’ve ever ever seen, losing my way to anywhere, circling lush gorgeousness casually gracing everywhere. Alone, without a single word of French remembered by my stunned brain, I cavorted in more green than I knew existed, even though I’ve camped in the Pacific Northwest and sojourned in New England. The ocean mixed temperate salt water in with the heady Earth smells and my lungs gulped the oxygen-rich air. My giddy nose trembled at the waves of growing vitality. My pores plumped with gentle green vibrancy. I soaked, reveled, relaxed, rejoiced, and healed in magical vistas. I don’t recall ever feeling that much at home, anywhere. I was ecstatic, truly lost in wonder and beauty, for six days. A numbing 27-hour return trip, cacophonous hours milling amidst my fellow Americans, and driving through the desiccated bare bones of my homeland broke my heart. I mourn still.

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Running Away

Running Away

My skin itches and flinches with cravings I cannot identify. Nothing feels right. I’m too hot so I take off my sweater and forget to stoke the fire. Now I’m too cold. New clothes! That’ll scratch this itch. Yeah—new shoes, boots, hat, something glamorous. No. I open the refrigerator and glare at the wholesome perk of gorgeous scrupulously selected fresh organic vegetables. They nauseate me. I want a greasy green chili cheeseburger with onion rings and Dr. Pepper. I’m desperate to chat with a friend but she who calls unknowingly pushes all sorts of disremembered buttons. I cannot grasp the tail of meandering meanings in our conversation and begin to believe one of us is an idiot. Damn I’m edgy.

I pace. My elliptical orbit flows widdershins. I climb the stairs, trip over the seventeen speculum awaiting assemblage, wonder about carving some marvelous something in the chunks of red cedar, remember the breath mint tins need finishing, idly open the flat files, ponder the swath of dusty primed canvas, trundle down the hall to the toilet, peer at a bookshelf, step cautiously over the pride of sleeping cats; repeat. Molly, Lince, Emma, and Coco slash their tails in double-time counterpoint to my nine-year-old-on-a-rainy-day rhythm. Even screaming when I want to scream doesn’t work. I annoy myself.

Some human design consultant somewhere assigns this frenetic moodiness to vitamin C-3PO starvation, barometric vortex, seasonal mega-chartreuse jonesing or Celtic insanity genes but explanations don’t serve. And coping suggestions may trigger locked-jaw ferocity. I do not give a rat’s ass if everyone feels this way or what I should do to not feel this way. I am this way. One more reason I live with felines—they don’t act ignorant. I feel like my Epona doll looks: All dressed up and primed for high falutin’ adventure with a stick-in-the-mud pony that wants to stay home.

Each year about this time I spend a couple three weeks as ding-batty as eight-month-old kittens. I pirouette, lunge and leap, dancing seductively to Big Mama’s siren-songs preparing for a soon-to-be world-stunning splendiferous cameo appearance on some elaborate stage supported by a full choir and cast of 100s. Then whooomph! An itty bitty prick—it could be anything—deflates me. I’m wiped out. No energy. None. I cannot forgive myself for needing naps, so I lie down, jump up, lie down, spring up, peeving my precious feline companions mightily. Finally I blaspheme everyone (in my head) who might be whispering a comment about my age (there is no one around for literally miles) and get under the covers. The cats pile on and a dull, repetitive, napping-reading-should-be-doing-something-useful bickering ensues until I sleep far past my allotted 45 minutes.

Mentally disheveled from the nap, I must groom my day in some useful way. Food. Good idea. Standing with my tongue firmly clamped in my teeth, eyes agape and a sharp knife in my hand my gossamer thoughts drift to outrageous visions of me headlining the All Girl Bodacious Extravaganza and Eternal Beltane Three-Ring Spectacle, remembering how fetching I would have looked in a peach tutu tastefully adorned with scarlet, daffodil, and flamingo rhinestones, highlighted by ocher glitter and Monroe marabou. For a few moments I rue not taking that topless horse rider job in Tucson years ago (damn! I would have been good!), forget about lunch and mosey back to the computer until my stomach startles me and Molly.

Fifty years ago I perfected the queenly, figure 8 wave just so I’d be totally regal when I acknowledged the thunderous applause for my splendid big-top aerial derring-do or even while I humbly accepted the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer within days of each other, but, alas, I have yet to perform the beauteous ritual publicly. It’s doubtful I’ll any day soon stun an audience with my superb back flip twist on a cantering palomino mare or regale more than a mere handful with perfect narrative poetry. Rats.

The great and good news is this is the præludium to Spring and at the end of this topsy-turvy time our world will be painted lavender with lilacs, then fruit blossoms, and on into the renewing of this northern part of our Earth. And, I’ll get through this tail-swishing cranky time, neither picking up roadside trash for the county nor drooling and rocking at my therapy appointment. Plus, mixed in with madness, the sublime moments just fill me to gasping. Yesterday, for example, I momentarily gave up trying to control the jitters and stepped outside to say an evening thank you. There, with just a tiny, truly an infinitesimal tilt of my head, were ten gazillion katrillion breath-stopping stars winking at me. Ah, yes, I sigh. The Great Cosmic Reminder. Be easy, girlfriend. It’s all working just fine, thank you.

© 2014, Jeanne Treadway
(This essay appeared in different forms other places.)