Monday, March 26, 2012

Positivity. There’s a word for you. Actually it isn’t. A word, that is. I couldn’t find it in my little dictionary and my computer writing program underlined it as being incorrect with no suggestions. On the other hand we have negativity. That is a word. Negativity is a word and positivity isn’t. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because negativity is a well-known condition. People are very used to looking on the negative side of things. They recognize such a condition. Looking on the positive side of things is such an uncommon occurrence that it doesn’t even deserve a word to describe it. One has to be invented.

That’s an overstatement of the matter but it is, nevertheless, a rather sad situation. I think it’s a fact that being negative toward situations and people is a popular way to approach things. What is more unfortunate is being negative toward yourself. That’s a common condition and one that I’m prone to do. The reasons for doing that vary with people. Some common ones are:

It’s safe. If I expect too much it probably won’t happen and then I’ll be disappointed. Looking on the dark side is better.

It’s more fun. Sort of watching horror movies or skydiving.

It’s what I was taught. My whole family’s negative. My friends are, too. It’s what I’m supposed to do.

It’s being humble. To think I deserve good things is arrogant.

Fear. I really feel I can’t do well.

Poor self esteem. Self explanatory.

There are countless other reasons for negative thinking. To try to list them all would be a monumental and rather pointless exercise. I’m trying to work through my own list of reasons for negativity and deal with them as best I can. It’s liable to take me a long time to complete the task. I recently came up with a bit of reasoning that I believe will help me in the process. It’s to recognize self-depreciation as being self-deception. The full logic of this is that I believe every person is a unique individual with inherent and distinctive talents, abilities and worth. For a person to depreciate any of these for any reason is for him to deceive himself into believing that he is less than he really is. I’m still working on this. We’ll see if it pays off for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring has apparently come—right on schedule, or actually a bit ahead of schedule. I always consider March to be a rather “iffy” month weather-wise. Usually around St Patrick’s Day there is a storm of some sort with snow, ice, wind and/or other objectionable features. This year that did not happen, spring officially comes into being on Wednesday and we are, I assume, safely into the “good” part of the year.

For the past week or better I have been listening to one of my favorite sounds of this season—the sound of spring peepers. To my delight I found these little frogs inhabit the area in which I live and that I can enjoy the distinctive sound they create by venturing only a short distance from my home. A walk in the dusk is made extra pleasant by the sound made by these peepers.

I remember a time when these creatures inspired in me a sense of awe. Some years ago I frequented the area around Conneaut Lake, PA. There is a large marsh near there that stretches, as I recall, some twenty miles. There are a few roads that access that area and if one drives into its more central environs on a moonless night in spring, the trappings of civilization fade. The nearest habitations are faint lights on the horizon; all else is darkness. And out of that darkness and the square miles of marshland emanate the sound of thousands or tens of thousands of peepers. It is not a gentle chirp or purr, but a sound that comes in waves, thundering to an unbelievable volume and then ebbing to a murmur and then swelling again, over and over and over. There, in the darkness, with the smells of water and damp earth and of the night itself, it seemed to me to be a sound for the creation of the world.

I have not been up to that area for some years. I miss it. I’d like to hear the sound of the peepers again on a dark night in the middle of that long stretch of swampland. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever have that opportunity. Until then, I’m fortunate in having a small sample of it right here close to my front yard. It is my personal confirmation that the arrival of the season of spring is finally and totally complete.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“Poets make pets of pretty . . . words” Elinor Wylie wrote. I imagine anyone who uses words in communication of one sort or another, whether in writing or verbally, has words that are of some special significance to him or her. Sometimes that significance is positive, sometimes negative. Sometimes it is a word that is in popular use.

One word that I hear over and over in conversations is “awesome”. I hear it used by many people, very young people to very old people. I’m not sure what they mean by the use of that word. I have never seen anything that I would describe as “awesome,” that is, something that “inspires . . . fear mingled with admiration or reverence” (from The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary). Awesome seems to me to be a strong word to apply to most things. Fear isn’t too hard to come by these days. Reverence is rather rare. Admiration is all over the place, applicable to everything from super-sized sandwiches to the latest model sports car. But putting fear and admiration together in the everyday world—or fear and reverence? I don’t think so. It’s stretching a point.

I have many words that I like simply for their sound—angelus, eventide, twilight, autumn. Come to think of it, I like those words not only for their sound but also for the images they inspire. I wonder which came first for me, the sound of the word or the image that accompanies it. I think anyone who cares to could put together a list of a dozen or so such words.

There is one word that has been in my thought patterns recently, one that is there not for its sound (though its sound is not unpleasant) but for its meaning. That word is “perhaps.” Just think of the images that word might provoke, visions of all sorts of things coming to be. “Perhaps” is a word pregnant with possibility, capable of launching one on a voyage of the wildest dreams. And that’s just it—it is a dreamer’s word. But what’s wrong with that? Everyone is a dreamer at one time or another or, I think, should be. At any rate, it’s my current pet word. How long that will last I don’t know. Perhaps next week I’ll have another.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I looked over most of the things I’ve written and realized there is very little about spring. Practically nothing. I’ve written about summer, fall and winter, all seasons except spring. Why is that? I wondered. It’s not that I have anything against spring. I’ve mentioned it many times and always in a fond way in larger writings. But a piece of prose or a poem simply about spring? I never did any. So, I thought I’d better rectify that situation and write a piece for the season.

Spring is coming early this year—or at least there is every indication of that. Spring is elusive and often unpredictable. Some years one is sure that it will never come and then suddenly it pops into view and is with us, providing warm days without pause. Other years it comes and then suddenly is gone and we have days, perhaps weeks of winter returned. This year it is especially difficult to proclaim it to be spring because of the fact that we have had so little winter. People have told me recently of seeing definite signs of spring—crocuses coming up and robins returning. When I lived on the farm, there were three things I loved seeing: the appearance of crocuses next to the path to the house, robins in the kitchen garden and the sight and the sound of geese flying high over greening fields, coming north. I came to realize, though, that creatures of nature, plants and birds, can be fooled. There were times when their appearance was followed by nasty weather, some years rather severe.

Spring means different things to different people. I once knew a fellow who had come here from Puerto Rico and had a poor opinion of spring in Pittsburgh. He claimed it consisted of three temperate days between a snowstorm and a heat wave. For many people it is the season of love, hence the famous, classic poem, erudite and succinct, that I remember from very early in my life—from grade school:

Spring is sprang and the grass is riz.

I wonder where my true love is.

Sometimes that true love is hard to find. A girl I knew in high school had a love/hate relationship with a boy whose last name was Lang. One spring she sadly voiced the following lines:

The grass is riz and spring is sprang

And here I am, stuck with Lang.

My wife, Mariellen, loved spring. She rejoiced in it. She loved the sight, the feel, the smell, the all of it. One bright day of an early spring she joyfully stood with her arms spread wide, welcoming its arrival. “Isn’t this wonderful?” she exclaimed. “Can’t you smell it? I’ve always loved the smell of spring. I know what it smells like,” she said in sudden discovery. “It smells like wet earth—earth thawing and coming alive again after a long winter.”

That’s the way I still think of spring—a time of the smell of wet earth, earth renewing itself. And I think of spring as a time of promise, something that, though of necessity disappearing for a time, faithfully returns to us every year with that promise—the promise of new life.