Terry Marotta: The voice of the turtle
For this whole last week some lines from the Bible’s Song of Solomon have repeated in my mind.
I don’t mean the frankly erotic ones, where the lover keeps spinning up all these fanciful descriptions of the beloved’s body, but the ones describing the turn of the seasons:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away, for lo, the winter is past. The time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
It’s the King James Version I quote here, so ‘turtle’ actually means ‘turtledove’. As far as I know the only turtle whose voice has ever been heard is the one from the 1987 comedy The Three Amigos who says “Good Night, Ned” and I’m pretty sure there was a bit of ventriloquism involved there.
But yes, winter is past. You can feel it everywhere.
Take the sun, that is so much stronger now.
That old snowpack is shrinking more every minute. These last few days it's begun looking like the dough the pizza-man tosses in his head so as to fill it with air. It reminds of the Manna from Heaven that the folks in the Book of Exodus gathered up every morning to eat.
Or take the winds, that are also now strong. I look out my window these last days and see the large trunklike limbs of our oak tree swaying like the slender branches of a willow.
Between the winds and this new strong sun, we humans are getting almost giddy.
At the dry cleaners’ the other day, a woman I have never met turned to me as we waited in line. “I know you!” she cried. “You’re the one whose sister sings opera!”
I am in fact not the one whose sister sings opera and said so as kindly as I could.
“Well anyway, I know I’ve seen you at those summer concerts in the courtyard of the Episcopal Church!”
Wrong again, but why say so when this late-winter thaw brings such high spirits?
Surely it was high spirits that moved the tiny girl I passed at the town pond to bend over and toss her little skirt clear up over her head, revealing a paradise of ruffles on the seat of her little undies.
“Hayley, put your skirt down right now!” cried her mother. “Why would you even DO that?”
Silly question, when it seemed to me she did it because the geese were also doing it at the thawing margins of this chilled champagne-bucket of a pond. Down went their heads into the water. Up came their feathered bottoms, as gloriously arrayed as young Hayley’s ruffles.
All I know is that something is coming and it isn’t more winter, in spite of the fact that the Great Blizzard of 1888 that brought snow to the sills of the second-story windows began on March 11th of that year
Even our old oak tree feels it. Day and night now, I watch its great limbs, stirring the sky like vast wooden spoons.