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Commentary: Will Spring Bring Renewal This Year?

By Bernadette Ruof


Buffalo, NY – In a poem entitled "Spring," Edna St. Vincent Millay writes,

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness

Of little leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know..."

Millay refuses to be smitten with spring. April, May, June and the wonder of each of those months, full of the new growth of magnolia trees and the fresh smelling air She's having none of it. The world is too much with her to have her head turned by the music of birds in the early morning or the surprising green of the grass as it awakens from the dead of winter. She's cynical, some might say. Depressed maybe, too pesismistic.

It's difficult to be optimistic when we all "know what we know." The economy makes many of our lives a daily struggle. People are going hungry right in our own community. The Mobile Soup Kitchen, which serves its clientele near the Central Library, sees a steady stream of customers, hungry and cold. Every non-profit is hurting for money and the calls for our help are relentless...buy diapers for the families at Homespace, contribute to public radio and TV, we can't lose the Studio Arena, we won't let our neighbors down, we'll help, we'll help. It's exhausting. And we feel defeated before we even begin.

But in my backyard, the ducks land in the pool every morning to the gleeful delight of the dogs and the yellow finches fly by my living room window to dine alfresco at my neighbor's feeder. That should be enough to forget about the world, shouldn't it?

It doesn't always work. Our daily lives are not at all easy. The gas prices are at nearly $4 a gallon and the cost of food and the cost of clothing and the cost of college and the cost of supporting local churches and charities remind us how bad our world is, and then couple that with perhaps, becoming older or less healthy or facing the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, well, there are days when it feels like we all may as well take the pipe.

But take it from someone who has had a flirtation with depression. In spite of all the troubles we face and the troubles of others with whom we empathize, allowing the worst of our world to win over us isn't good for anyone. It engenders paralysis.

It's in the renewal we see in nature during April and May and June that reminds me that the energy of plants and animals to regenerate their lives makes me want to find the energy to regenerate mine.

Spring is promising. As Millay tells us in the same poem,

"...yearly, down this hill, April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

April, May, June...each month offering us the promise of a better tomorrow. Maybe I am an idiot to believe in it, but I'm not buying into Millay's malaise. The beauty of these spring months can be enough to help us to begin to do something positive, in spite of how insurmountable the problems may seem. I'll send United Way the money I'd spend at an expensive coffeehouse, or give a few dollars to help support the hungry of our community, and embrace April, May and June and all its effusive energy as I begin to solve the problems I see around me, one act at a time.

Listener-Commentator Bernadette Ruof is a retired school teacher.

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