As my neighbors and friends here in southern Indiana have balked at the cold weather this March and April – snow the first week of April! – I have kept my smug northern Minnesotan memories to myself: childhood memories of spring where the lake could still be frozen in late May, still being cool after school let out, of huge, dense lilac bushes flourishing in the cooler weather. Most importantly, though, I quietly long for the glorious, be they brief, summers of the north country.
Spring itself is anticipation for summer, is it not? Spring is the anticipation of growth and life and harvests and color. Except, for me in Indiana I anticipate summer in a different way, in a fearful, dreading kind of way. Most Minnesotans would probably be baffled by the thought of dreading spring, but for me in southern Indiana spring means that the hot, humid summer will come soon and last for months and I won’t want to pick up any of my beloved, warm wool for knitting, I won’t want to go outside and lay in the intense, oppressive sun, and the smell of the air conditioning inside will make me feel nauseous. This kind of dread for summer reminds me of a poem that Anna Akhmatova translated in her poetry collection “В то время я гостила на земле…” (“At that time I visited the earth…”), Moscow: Prometei, 1990, from the Serbian poet Desanka Maksimovich. It is called “Cтрах” (“Fear” or “Dread”). Probably a little dark for the promise of bright spring, but it captures my complicated feelings toward the anticipation of summer in Indiana. Here is my translation from the Russian:
O, не приближайся.Только издалека
хочется любить мне свет очей твоих.
Счастье в ожиданье дивно и высоко,
если есть намеки, счастье только в них.
Oh, come no closer. Only from a distance
do I want to love the color of your eyes.
Happiness in anticipation is wondrous, lofty,
and even in its suggestion, happiness abides.
О, не приближайся. Есть очарованье
в сладостном томленье страха и мечты.
То, чего ты ищешь, лучше в ожиданье,
лучше то, что знаешь из предчувствий ты.
Oh, come no closer. There is charm
in the sweet darkness of fear and dreams.
Whatever you are looking for is better in the anticipation,
better yet when you know from premonition.
Нет, не приближайся. И зачем нам это?
Все лишь издалека светит, как звезда,
все лишь издалека радостью согрето,
нет, не сблизим лучше взоры никогда.
No, come not any closer. And for what?
From a distance all glows, like a star,
From a distance all is warmed up by happiness,
No, let’s not even catch each other’s glance, not ever.
Like I said, a little dark for spring probably… And it’s not fair to the lovely Indiana spring either. The flowering trees here are a delight to me every year, the dogwoods and magnolias that thrive in the long, relatively warm spring. And with the especially long spring this year, these trees, in downtown Bloomington, may be especially grateful for their extra knitted coats.