The blooming of the soul Essay: March holds the fullest anticipation that the earth will once again renew itself.

March 15, 1996|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,SUN STAFF

Joseph Wood Krutch, author of "The Twelve Seasons," thought the year should begin in March. Why? Because March is the month richest in anticipation.

Starting the year on Jan. 1 never made sense to Mr. Krutch. That was a decision dictated by astronomers and Julius Caesar, rather than with more appropriate considerations that is, with reference to the natural rhythms of the human animal.

March, Mr. Krutch wrote, is when the year "is annually created anew, and that is when the calendar of the soul begins."

In ancient times, and for people with much less to hope for, March stimulated the guarded expectation that the world would start to live again, warmth would return and the sun would come back from wherever it went after the trees fell silent, the lakes grew dark and the rocks turned cold.

Their expectations were guarded because, back then, people never knew what the next hour or day would bring, let alone the next season. And they could never be sure there would be a new season, especially one so animating as spring.

One can never be absolutely certain spring will come back, even when the sun nests in the trees, even with all the assurances of astronomers with their lenses pointed in correct directions, and weathermen with their high-altitude balloons.

It is only the anticipation of that coming that warms us, that deflects recent memories of the freeze from which we're only now emerging. We are like boxers who have been punched too much: We have been made glove-shy by that meanest of the four seasons.

But one has to be careful.

"What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens," wrote Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli was a cynic, of course, and he lived in London where the weather is always bad. Well, maybe not always bad, but bad enough of the time that it doesn't even have the reassurance of consistency.

Still, Disraeli's caution deserves attention, and I am going to give it its full three seconds' worth. After that, I'll turn all my energies to watching the forsythia regenerate from that recent arctic sneeze that froze its buds on the branch. I'll search out the crocus again, and whatever else is bold or hardy enough to reveal itself and take a chance.

Spring in Baltimore is beautiful. I know it is probably more beautiful in my memory than it has ever been, or is likely to be, in actuality. But that's the nature of anticipation: It overstates the case for what it endorses.

So what? Could anything be worse than what we are escaping? Hardly.

And I hope no, I anticipate (a stronger affirmation) that the promised pleasantness is here to stay, at least for eight months or so until our hemisphere swings around the corner of the sun and once again faces into the tenebrous cold.

Not everybody appreciates the usefulness of anticipation in life. Those who don't are able to remember vividly that anticipated events or outcomes have usually failed to live up to the promise invested in them. They are with Disraeli, lovers of the hard truth.

They no doubt would feel better if, right off, we presumed that April will be cold and drizzly and as cruel as some say it can be, that May will spawn a blizzard of flies which will eat the azalea blossoms, that June will usher us into an inferno of three months' duration, a fiery necklace of 100-degree days that will have us all gasping for the icy pain of our most recent January.

But this just reaffirms for me what I've always believed, that the secret of a long life is a bad memory. And besides, there is another way of looking at it:

Wasn't that hope, that anticipation, pleasant in itself? Wasn't it, in a way, its own reward?

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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