The Enkindled Spring
This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
– D. H. Lawrence
An embodiment of beauty, positivity and hope, spring had been a poet’s subject for centuries. Sprouting tender new leaves and dazzling blooms doesn’t only please the senses, nature’s spirit is infectious, inspiring poets to evocate and celebrate its beauty, whether it was William Blake beckoning spring to bless his land with its touch of life in his poem ‘To Spring,’ or Emily Dickinson’s conjuring of the onset of this season in the poem, ‘A Light Exists in Spring,’ in which she uses the gorgeous light only seen in springtime, to reveal nature’s hidden charms. And even though it’s obvious that the universe is bewitched by this pleasant season, it’s only when we sift it through ourselves, our experiences, our lives, does a particular season become profound to each one of us. And spring transports me back to one of the best times of my life.
Compared to the characteristic severe, cold winter mornings of Jharkhand where I grew up, when waking up was akin to punishment, the soothing kiss of the spring breeze in the morning and the serenading song of the Asian koel from afar, was a dream that I never wanted to end. So when I settled down in Kolkata, where grey, concrete structures loomed large and the incessant noise never ceased, the only time these differences seemed oblivious, was during spring. And over the past two decades I’ve discovered more similarities than differences, especially during springtime endearing this city to me far more than I had ever imagined.
Even though spring in Kolkata isn’t as sharply distinguishable from the mellow winter we enjoy, it comes just before some rather uncomfortable sultry weather that lasts for months, providing a much needed rejuvenating breath of fresh air before we embark on this difficult period ahead. And amidst the bonanza on offer, with every tree effulgent in spring finery, there’s one tree that stands out for me with much the same exuberant romanticism it did for Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, when he wrote, …Kichchu palasher nesha… a headiness I often experience myself when I behold the blazing palash flowers.
Known also as the flame of the forest, this hardy, deciduous tree grows effortlessly even in harsh climates. Its dark, twisted trunk and branches look a hopeless sight for most part of the year, but just like spring breathes life into every living being, the palash tree bursts forth with life too. The first flicker of flowers begin to emerge in the month of March, and lasts right up to the beginning of summer, when the rest of the forest appears to be in distress, allowing the little sparks of fire to create a brilliant contrast.
So while I was quite familiar with the bright orange blooms since it happens to be the state flower of Jharkhand and grows abundantly in the sal forests around our hometown, only after coming to Kolkata did I get a chance to acquaint myself with the yellow variant, equally attractive, probably even more desirable for being rarer to sight. I’m lucky to have a few around our locality, but I’m especially drawn to one in a local park, which has become an obligation to visit during springtime. The last time I set my eyes on it, the tree was pulsating with wildlife. Bees, sunbirds and bulbuls had arrived to party on the sweet nectar its flowers offered. Like a compliment to the already brilliant blooms, a beautiful black-rumped flameback woodpecker joined them, drumming the tree trunk, poking for worms and larvae while a coppersmith barbet got busy chiselling out a nest in one of its branches.
For me spring is the artist that paints the universe with its vibrant brushstrokes in ebullient colours. In the words of renowned American naturalist, John Muir “…spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm, new life, new beauty, unfolding, unrolling in glorious exuberant extravaganza…’ Like me, if you’re miles away from the serene mountains and natural surrounds that inspired these words, you can experience the spirit of spring wherever you live, if you choose to.
For city dwellers spring presents the perfect time to commune with nature. It’s when an assortment of ornamental trees in natural parks and gardens bloom profusely offering an opportunity to experience nature through diverse sensory modalities. But it’s those incidental interactions that occur when commuting on the busy, polluted streets, flanked by pink rosy trumpet, jacaranda, semal and golden trumpet trees standing on dusty boulevards that are truly serendipitous. And when the gentle breeze shakes loose the pink, mauve, crimson and yellow petals off these flowering trees, blowing them about like fragrant confetti, for a brief moment life seems to dance ever so lightly.
Whenever I come across a tree buzzing with life and positivity, be it on a roadside or on a leisurely walk in the park, I wonder about the interactions it has had over the years with those who came before me, stood and admired it the way it should be. As I stand beneath it, marvelling at its personality, it doesn’t take me long to realize that we all are mere travellers on a journey. The season of spring is one of those opportunities life gives us to enjoy its pleasures, but given the perpetual whirl most of our days have become, we often pass on them. Only when we pause and appreciate these precious moments of peace and mindfulness that is springtime, the journey of life will turn a bit more meaningful and worthwhile!
*Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons, Sujoy Bag.