Spring Stinks

"Early Spring Daze" - Photo by Ev Bishop

“Early Spring Daze” – Photo by Ev Bishop

Spring stinks. No, seriously, it does. All the dead plant life from fall, frozen all winter, finally thawed and rotting. The sopping wet fields and lawns release an icky, sweet, almost manure-like scent as organisms in the dirt decompose. But it’s a stench I love. It smells like possibility.

Like, regardless of whether my new year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside or whether I’m already behind in my yearly goals whatever they may be, it’s okay because it’s spring. Time for new growth. For planting. For milder weather and easier times.

And this year, thanks to our gentle winter, the promise of spring has come earlier than usual. (And I say this despite the fact that as I write this, snowflakes as big as my fist are falling from the sky. That’s the kind of optimism spring brings! The kind that makes me smile at the crazy, cold sky and say with great confidence, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s not ‘staying’ snow.”)

I think everyone feels it—or I hope they do: a rush of hopefulness and happiness as plans about what they want to do in the warmer months in beautiful Terrace unfurl in their minds.

I’ve been poking about my perennial beds with glee. Things are going to take off early this year—but not too early. (Nothing’s so developed that I’m worried everything will be killed if we have a late cold snap). I’ve noted that I need a new roof and my house is desperate for a paint job. (The past four or five years it was just in want of a paint job. The desperation is new.) I even contemplated an old-fashioned spring-cleaning as I looked at my walls, but thankfully came to my senses. There’s no need to get too crazy now.

But whether the walls get scrubbed or not, spring always feels like it harkens a new season of industry, one where I’ll get to all my chores—and enjoy doing so.

And this year spring is more exciting than ever because I feel like thrilling new growth abounds beyond my own yard, small gardens and personal aims. Wherever I venture in town, development is afoot.

After years where it seemed like our shops and merchants were just struggling to hold on and keep the rent paid, parking lots are filled with cars. Long empty retail spaces are filling up. And the Skeena Mall . . . well, holy Toledo, it actually looks like a mall. Maybe it’s weird to be grateful to contractors you’ve never met, but every time I look at the lovely Skeena Mall logo with its swirl of green pine, that’s what I feel.

And equally weirdly, I’m thrilled by the big signs on the corners of the mall parking lot that will one day advertise the stores that fill the mall. Finally! I never understood why mall merchants weren’t permitted to have outdoor signs. Kudos to those who enabled the change.

New restaurants have opened up and will hopefully thrive, including our very own sushi bar. Shops and companies that started out small are expanding, buying or renting bigger office spaces, building new, larger shops. Oh, Terrace, after years of dormancy, we’re growing again!

Spring. It’s the perfect time to muck in the mud, figuratively and literally—but it’s also a great time to clean up and go walk about and window shop (and also to shop shop!). In winter, we (or, at least, I) tend to bundle up and run from one place to the next on a mission to do whatever I need to do quickly. In spring, it’s time to meander and daydream.

I hope whatever you’re up to this spring finds you inspired and motivated—and that when you smell that hint of stink under the sweet fresh breeze that’s soon to bring us warmer days, you’re filled with a sense of anticipation and promise. On small and big scales, in personal and public matters, it’s going to be a great growing season.

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“Spring Stinks” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Good For What Ails Me

"Spring Always Arrives" - Photo by Ev Bishop

“Spring Always Arrives” – Photo by Ev Bishop

Sometimes I romanticize the writing life. (Well, pretty much every aspect of life actually, but I’ll just focus on the writing aspects for now.) And while normally I feel this is a lovely quality, it has a downside. It can make me feel, when writing sessions are more tedious than magical, that maybe it’s because of some inherent flaw in me. Maybe I’m an impostor. A fraud.

I want “perfect” writing days:

Sessions where every penned nuance and detail is rife with significance.

Times with the texture and quality of embossed leather or whiskey soaked velvet (though if I think about it, I’m not really sure how either of those would describe a day at all).

Sprees filled with rambling, writerly chats, obscure poems found wedged between the floor boards in a bedroom of a long vacant house (again, a detail that seems sort of impossible to randomly happen upon when my butt is planted in my office chair, but don’t over think things: this is a perfect day, people!), and wine drank from pewter goblets.

Weather that’s all sunrise, sunset, or storm. Lavender-grey sky. Charcoal-soot clouds. Pounding rain that bends the trees and echoes my heart.

Hours when time pauses and my prose falls effortlessly upon the page, as moving and powerful as a wind that shakes leaves, bends boughs, and changes the season.

I want to be the poet in the turret, the crazy longhaired maiden-crone in the attic (but one whose family doesn’t disown her!).

So, although I often find that the reality of being a writer is pretty great, by comparison to the stuff of my daydream writer life, it’s sometimes a little disappointing. Or a lot, depending on the day. I’m continually surprised that writing is actually work—sometimes really hard work. It’s something I have to schedule in. It rarely just happens. And often it’s painful, like I’m a surgeon charged with the task of removing my own organs without anaesthetic and spreading them around for the world to see. But worse than the pain is the fear.

The fear that I actually have nothing to say. That perhaps the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” was written with me in mind (“Aren’t they beautiful?” “Isn’t what beautiful? There’s nothing there.”) Fear that I am mediocre at best. Fear that people will see me naked and laugh, or worse, avert their eyes, turn away—ashamed, unable to relate, embarrassed for me. And even more fear: that I will never be read or connected with at all. I will send parts of myself into the void and be met with . . . silence.

How silly I am to worry about such things hit me afresh yesterday.

I’d fled my computer for a break to work in the yard. The air had a quality that, I don’t know, just made me want to laugh. Sweet and fresh, yet here and there, tinged with the earthy scent of dead plants, no longer frozen, freed to rot. The fecund smell of approaching spring is so ancient and independent of human involvement that it always seems almost otherworldly to me—yet also somehow makes me feel like every dream is possible.

The sun was trying to warm the winter-cold earth, and a brisk breeze carried an invigorating lesson: New life erupts from death. Growth springs forth from decay and rot and . . . well, shit.

Creation can be painful—just listen to my chickens. Yet, day in and day out, they each lay an egg—and though they complain bitterly during the process, they squawk equally proudly about the results of their labour. And as inglorious and common as laying an egg every day may be to some, each speckled brown oval is its own miracle too.

Does the chicken question whether it can lay an egg, or if it can, will it be a good enough egg, or if its worthy of even attempting to lay an egg in the first place? I’m not a chicken whisperer, but I don’t think so. Hens definitely seem to have more of an “I’m a chicken, dammit. Of course I lay eggs. Get over yourself and get cracking” attitude. Can I do any less or be any less pleased with my output?

And the chickens lay regardless of the day, temperature, or individual mood—mild and balmy, or bitter and hideous. And likewise, my hedge puts out buds when it’s supposed to, despite the wind, the danger of frost. . . . It seems to like it when I fuss, but it does its thing whether I’m there or not.

I have perfect dreamy writing days occasionally, and they’re amazing. I mean who doesn’t love to feel their work is going well, that they’ve connected with something deep within themselves, and enjoyed the process? Who doesn’t revel in a bit of romance?

I wonder though—perhaps ironically—if my writing is better on the days it feels like organ-extraction? Or if maybe the revolutions between between angst and toil and ecstasy and pleasure are all necessary? Maybe writing is like the rest of life, a continual shift of seasons. Some more enjoyable than others, perhaps, but all crucial, all inevitable. And maybe it’s just something I shouldn’t think about too much—just enjoy and accept (with a little squawking occasionally!).