Friday, March 12, 2010

Music and Memory, Part 9: February

While many of my New York City compatriots hate pigeons (a.k.a. "rats with wings"), I have always loved them, because they are so beautiful.  If you look closely, you can see that each one is different, and the way their necks ripple with brilliant shades of purple and green in the sunlight is a reminder of the beauty hidden in the even the drabbest-seeming among us.

Today I saw a bird in my backyard that was not a pigeon (some days, here, I'd give a lot for a glimpse of one), but it reminded me of one.  It was a dull, blackish, starling sort of bird, and its head was subtly colored with an iridescent green that called to my mind images of pigeons strutting and scrapping in the city sunlight, and reminded me that spring was not far off.

Not two weeks ago we were shoveling, and now it's mild, though the mountains all around are still covered in snow.  I used to have a recurring nightmare that I had missed spring entirely, having slept through it or been too distracted by whatever I was brooding over to notice the loveliest of seasons.  But these past few years, I've wanted the winter to go on and on.  I never feel ready for the reawakening of spring, for its lightness, its nakedness and simplicity.  But the seasons rarely respect human desire; as T.S. Eliot wrote in the first lines of The Waste Land:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow . . .

Here is a song about winter giving way to spring, Dar Williams's "February," from her 1996 album Mortal City.  It is one of the saddest songs I know.


Rodak said...

Such devastating beauty.

On the one hand, your post has made it worthwhile rolling out of bed this morning.

On the other hand, there is considerable internal bleeding.

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan? ~ F. Villon

Pentimento said...

It's a great song, and I can hardly listen to it without crying myself.

I wanted to tell you about a book I just got out of the library, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. It's about New York in 1974. I'm about 50 pages in and I can't put it down. One of the characters is a sort of radicalized Irish monk living in the South Bronx. You might like it.

Rodak said...

Yes, the song is nice. But I was really speaking of what you wrote to preface the music.

Thank you for the book recommendation, I will definitely try to find it. 1974 was a good year for me.

Enbrethiliel said...


The song punched me in the gut, too. Even after you introduced it as sad, I didn't see the ending coming.

Pentimento said...

Yeah, E. It's kind of brilliant, isn't it? A friend of mine says that if you listen to it in the actual month of February it will send you over the edge.

Enbrethiliel said...


In that case, you were very kind to have posted that link in March!

But I'd amend your friend's remark to say that the song is saddest during a February winter. We're in the middle of a heatwave where I live, with no rain at all throughout last month. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreaking beauty and sadness of a frozen winter, though songs like this one are a start.

bibliotecaria said...

Interesting, because I don't connect with it at all. Maybe that's because for me February isn't really that sad a month. I'm getting a little tired of cold through February, and certainly I got weary of the snow this year, but I rather like January and February as times of hibernation for me. I go out less and absorb the silence and stillness of being at home, which I enjoy.