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Tom Chaney: Joyful Spring
Of Writers And Their Books: Joyful Spring! Tom Chaney pleads, "Give me spring's riot of color underfoot" rather than the well-kept lawn. This column first appeared 27 April 2008.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: "The Exhausted Aftermath": The Last Enemy Vanquished
By Tom Chaney
I forego a book this week in favor of springtime.
It is difficult to describe just how joyful is spring this year. Seems as though each dreary winter gets longer the longer I get in the tooth. Often I despair of spring's return.
Not alone am I in impatiently awaiting the darling buds of May. Up north of the Rio Verde spring is celebrated by the arrival of asparagus. A bit of nippy chill caused the tender shoots to take second thought about emerging.
Last year the 20th of April  yielded some two hundred asparagii -- this time only forty. A tasty Sunday supper nonetheless when steamed with rosemary and touched with butter. Fresh eggs and bleu cheese souffle'ed a fine main course. And outside the kitchen door a cherry tree exploding its blossom.
Horse Cave's ancient catalpa is showing its leaf. In a month I'll dust off John Ciardi's catalpa poem for the tree's "one white week" in the park.
Alas! No ruin of hotel to frame the burst of bloom -- just bare dirt and a memory of bustling travelers coming and going across terrazzo-floored lobby, dining on Crosseno's fare and rumbling awake to the steam whistle of the midnight freight.
This spring has borne unaccustomed music. At Kentucky Repertory Theatre the lively strings of trio and guitar and woodwinds winding were echoed from Warren County by Cantus, a men's chorus stepping out of the late snow of Minneapolis greeting a southern spring.
We heard Cantus in the bleak Minnesota mid-winter. Now they join us in redbud time.
A yard walkabout is a joy. Golden dandelions stand proudly; purple violets in profusion are set against a background of pale green chickweed.
Pity the neighbors' monochromatic bluegrass already striped by the mower. No color. I pick a dandelion gone to seed and puff it toward neighborly green for color to come.
Who makes dandelion wine?
Who gathers dandelion greens for salad?
In the alley the pokeweed did not survive the new cement.
Frederick Law Olmstead gave New York its Central Park. He designed Louisville's park and boulevard system.
But in the process he invented lawns.
He brought on the lawn mower. The grass must be well fertilized -- mowed no more than four inches high in regular paths celebrating the geometry of butch-cut, arsenical green.
Give me spring's riot of color underfoot.
Give me summer's clover.
Let me look for the leaf of four.
Let me make a chain of white blossoms to twine in my true love's hair.
I've a photograph of my Three Springs grandparents, Susan and Tom, taken from a low angle through a tangle of wild grasses in their yard. That's the way a yard ought to be!
Last year the lawn police arrived on Yancey Avenue -- springing from their grassmobile brandishing a yard stick only twelve inches long.
Alas! Alack! Too high the grass!
Not wishing to be pilloried in the village stocks -- forced to stand beneath the postal flag with a green "G" upon my bosom, I complied. But I mowed around the clover, saving it for seed.
Let us then celebrate our spring!
Let us have wildflowers in magnificent disarray!
And let us roll about in the tall grass fetching up to lie with our head in our lovers' lap weaving chains of clover.
And when the grass police arrive, let us twine clover chains about their head and pick violets for the barrels of their guns and toast them with dandelion wine.
All praise to joyous spring!
Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney
This story was posted on 2013-04-28 03:59:02
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