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The Island

March 5, 2012

It’s the first day of spring break at the college where I work, and it’s snowing.  The students have two weeks off, and the weekend they return, Grinnell begins its two weeks off.  On the weekend Eleanor has to return to Iowa, Walker begins his week off from the high school.  Needless to say, the only trips we’re planning are day trips to such exciting places as Columbus and Cleveland. For extra excitement, Walker and I are going to Pittsburgh for a chess tournament one weekend during Eleanor’s break.

For the next two weeks, we are catsitting for some friends who are going to Italy.  I am always fiercely jealous of people who get to leave Ohio for warmer climates at this time of year. Perhaps I am still dreaming of the year we moved from Newport, Rhode Island to Pensacola, Florida in March.  It was one of the most wonderful springs of my life.

My thoughts about spring break have the petulant tone of someone much younger– someone who has no control over where he is able to go, except in imagination, like the speaker of A.A. Milne’s poem “The Island” from When We Were Very Young:
If I had a ship,
I’d sail my ship
I’d sail my ship
Through Eastern seas;
Down to a beach where the slow waves thunder—
The green curls over and the white falls under—
Boom! Boom! Boom!
On the sun-bright sand.
Then I’d leave my ship and I’d land,
And climb the steep white sand,
And climb to the trees
The six dark trees,
The coco-nut trees on the cliff’s green crown—
Hands and knees
To the coco-nut trees,
Face to the cliff as the stones patter down,
Up, up, up, staggering, stumbling,
Round the corner where the rock is crumbling,
Round this shoulder,
Over this boulder,
Up to the top where the six trees stand….

And there I would rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of the sand below,
And the green waves curling slow
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky….

And I’d say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea:
“There’s nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me.”

Isn’t that a lovely last line?  Especially when a person is feeling stuck in a land of gray and snow.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2012 10:01 am

    Some of my best spring break trips have been to places that were cold. Not sure what that says… This year I’ll be happy to get to the grocery store.

    • March 6, 2012 7:42 am

      Since my parents were college teachers, I grew up thinking spring break was a part of the rhythm of the year. But, of course, Ron is often busier than usual during breaks because everybody wants a computer thing done.

  2. March 5, 2012 10:08 am

    Oh spring break. It’s been so long since spring break happened. 🙂

    • March 6, 2012 7:43 am

      When your Eleanor gets old enough, the school breaks will provide some rhythm to your year. Although when my kids were elementary school age, that all-too-often meant a chance to recuperate from whatever germs had been circulating in their school since January.

  3. March 5, 2012 10:34 am

    Lovely, lovely. Yes. I never went anywhere except to work during college spring breaks. No beach trips, nothing. Never been any further south than Charleston SC, which is a great place but I was there for database training. *sigh*

    I love the poems in this book. this is my kind of poetry. 🙂 Poetry for children.

    • March 6, 2012 7:45 am

      Glad to oblige you with a poem you like! During college, I think my spring breaks were usually taken up with choir tours. We went all around Arkansas in March, which was lovely.

  4. March 5, 2012 10:55 am

    I suppose I should not siren-song about the azaleas (which have never been more beautiful – it’s a banner year for them), the birds singing, the soft warm breezes and the golden sunshine. Because I will hate it when you do the same in August when I am gasping for breath in oppressive heat.

  5. March 5, 2012 11:28 am

    I love oppressive heat.

    • March 6, 2012 7:47 am

      I hardly ever feel oppressed by heat, which is why I loved going to Texas to visit my brother in July. This has a down side now, because I’m not used to heat anymore and occasionally do too much and have to sit down and drink water.

  6. March 5, 2012 12:56 pm

    What a wonderful, unexpected poem for today.

    • March 6, 2012 7:49 am

      Glad you like it–as you can tell, I’m very fond of and familiar with Milne’s two volumes of poetry for/about children.

      • March 6, 2012 8:50 pm

        I had most of them memorized as a child. I could never convince AJ to give Milne the time of day. I consider it my great failing as a parent.

        • March 7, 2012 7:37 am

          Eleanor loved the Pooh stories, and then Walker loved everything Milne ever wrote, so we read and reread it all for about eight years there.

  7. March 5, 2012 2:23 pm

    This is a frequent daydream of mine on these cold blustery days.

    • March 6, 2012 7:50 am

      Oh, mine too! Part of my trapped feeling has come from the fact that our old gray minivan ain’t what she used to be, and I knew it wasn’t going to make any more trips. We’re looking at a Ford Escape to replace it, and the name is well nigh irresistible!

  8. March 5, 2012 8:08 pm

    I hope your winter gives way soon. We are still slightly wintery here but things have been slightly less overcast, and we never got very cold. I’ll be so excited when the green starts coming back to the trees.

    • March 6, 2012 7:53 am

      A few years after we moved here, we planted an ornamental pear tree in the front yard, because they’re one of the first to bloom in the spring and the last to lose their leaves in the fall. In Maryland, the ornamental pears would bloom about the same time as the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. and I would always try to go downtown and see them.

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