A Bouquet of Spring Flowers

ISAAC REHERT

March 23, 1993|By ISAAC REHERT

*TC Between the late-winter snowfalls, on a visit a friend's house here in town, I paused ever so briefly to notice a little patch of crocuses growing beside the concrete walkway. A few feet away, where it had been shoveled away, lay the remains of the previous snow, weary and soiled. By contrast, the flowers nearby were pristine and delicate, fresh and new, with their purple petals and bright saffron centers.

I paused only long enough to notice and say to myself, ''How pretty.'' Later, passing them again on the way out to my car, I took another moment to luxuriate in the thought that, after a dreary winter, spring was at last on its way.

At home the same day or thereabouts, I received in the mail a greeting card from a friend in Ireland. The printed side of the card, in celebration of Saint Patrick's Day, was appropriately done up in fresh green. I don't know why it had never occurred to me to see the connection between the day celebrating the patron saint of the Emerald Isle and the first day of spring. Perhaps it would have been asking too much, in more religious-minded times, for an overwhelmingly Catholic nation to commemorate, as the pagans did, something as mundane and material as the vernal equinox.

But my friend did. On the message side, she had written, after telling me whatever news she had to tell, ''Meanwhile let us rejoice that we have lived to see another spring.''

This was not an expression of despair. My friend is a robust healthy active person. What she was expressing was a deep immemorial sentiment of thanksgiving, applicable even those of us in the best of health. It was what I had felt as I admired the crocuses: that, especially now, at this great turning point in the year, we might pause a moment in our busy lives to smell the flowers.

The third flower in my bouquet is a journal entry I have just reread from a brief trip I took last autumn.

A small group of us had been invited to spend a long weekend at a friend's house in the country. The weather was perfect. We loafed together, took walks together, enjoyed the golden sunshine together as it warmed the nearby crop fields awaiting harvest. We spent a couple of nights, and in the mornings, wearing old clothes, we relaxed together in the bright sunshiny kitchen over breakfast.

Breakfast was a big country meal: hot cakes with honey and sausage, eggs, scrapple, toast, plenty of strong coffee. I don't recall the details of the menu, but I did make a note of a remark made by a member of our party. Looking over at her husband from the opposite side of the table, a woman said, to no one in particular, ''You can bet on it -- Bill doesn't eat a breakfast like this at home.''

I took it she was referring to the gargantuan quantity of food -- the flood of calories and cholesterol he was ingesting -- the ravaging of his ordinarily healthful diet.

But what I made note of was not the food but the conviviality. Half a dozen people sitting together, relaxed and friendly, simply chatting -- exchanging ideas and sharing with one another. Alternately serious and having fun. More repose than would ever be permitted in an office, more than could ever be achieved at a dinner party. The result, I think, of 36 hours of togetherness with nothing particular to do and adequate space to stay out of one another's way.

I became aware of the phenomenon, I suppose, because ordinarily, we lead lives of so much separateness -- each of us, or each couple, so busy at our own jobs, in our own houses, doing our own thing. It was the contrast that struck me.

In that brief moment of togetherness, I was moved to pause and to pay attention -- as I had paid attention to the crocuses and to my friend's rejoicing that we have lived to see another spring.

Today, as I sit indoors writing this, it is snowing and sleeting outside, and I add an additional note of grace: this time, for the glory of the human imagination that enables us, in the midst of a blizzard, to pause for a moment and smell the flowers.

Isaac Rehert is a retired Baltimore Sun writer.

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