It’s a perfect March day here today. Pale blue skies with large cumulus clouds gray tinged on the bottom. There’s wind alternately gusting and cresting. Shaking the pines and whipping dust around so that I have to squint my eyes. It calls forth the Brontes on their moor. Wherever I’ve lived in North America, the Maritimes, the Mid-Atlantic, the northwest, March has brought with it a body memory from childhood, or from many childhoods lived, dreamed, imagined, over and through time.
The town where I grew up in the sixties in South Jersey had a large open green space with baseball diamonds, swings and slides, a copse of whip-branched bushes that formed a warren of hiding places along an outer perimeter of the field. It lay between the high school (later a middle school) and two blocks of homes that backed up to it on Baldwin Road and Pomona Avenue where I lived.
I memory, it’s always March in that field, or somewhere in the liminal pre-spring days of February through April. My hatless hair is windblown, my nose running, lips chapped. There’s a melancholy specific to gusty, light-shifting days of mud and snowfringe. It’s an aloneness that is at once familiar and comfortable, and aching with expectation.
In grade school, I led my imaginary pony Mick by the halter across the four block field. When I was in seventh grade, there was a boy one day under March’s dour gray sky riding a brown and white pony. He went to Catholic school a grade behind me. We used to meet there on weekends, and he let me ride the pony around the field. He sent notes to me between rides via a neighbor who was in my class. Once he sent a solitary silver cufflink, which I saved in my jewelry box for years.
When I drive along the river road here some forty years later, these pre-spring days when the horses still in their shaggy winter coats hang their long gentle faces over fences, I feel the chilly, weak-sunned air of childhood on my skin, the pony’s bare back and fuzzy flanks beneath me. When the wind lifts and the sun sends snow back to earth, and earth to mud, I am returned to that time.
When I was in graduate school getting my MFA one of my friends took me to task for using March as a metaphor. It was not universal, he said, this “March” of which I wrote.
And yet, I believe that there is a March meme. A bare limbed and blustery sort of delicious melancholy, a rembrance, so to speak, of things and times past. It’s a meme of transition, of expectation, of something raw, thawing and budding from your secret and mysterious heart.
It’s a boy on a pony, or a girl walking alone on her way from school. Sun shifting in and out of clouds. Shadows and whispers, what has happened or will or will not. It’s secrets in the bushes, blunt naive gropings toward something just out of reach. It’s a bursting forth after which nothing will be the same.
Or maybe it’s only me, only my own memory of solitude and longing scuffing its feet in the muddy earth looking for clues to my Self. Maybe it’s something wild in the blood. A solitary link to what’s still out of reach.