My wife and I baby sat our two young granddaughters at our home recently. They migrate routinely between their parents’ home and ours; they’re our peripatetic grandchildren. We’re blessed to have them live so near.
Unfortunately, the event that occasioned the this particular visit was far from ideal; my son-in-law’s parents were badly injured in a car accident, so we were helping out. Thankfully, both parents are now on their way to recovery.
It was the kind of spring day in Colorado that invited a trip to the backyard: warm in the sun, but chilly enough to require a coat for the kids. My wife is a great one for picking up little toys to amuse her granddaughters; when we go out to the backyard, they appear as if by magic. She held up a bubble wand that, when the breeze was right, sent a stream of iridescent globes scurrying across the yard with the older granddaughter, Bridgett, in hot pursuit. (The younger one, Caroline, isn’t quite walking yet.) A pink vinyl ball that Bridgett is getting pretty handy at throwing around and trying to play catch. Inevitably, there is plenty of chasing dropped balls and stooping over to pick them up.
One time, I bent over to pick up the ball and felt the warmth of the sun on my back.
That’s when it happened. Again.
In a flash, a Robert Frost poem that I have thought of many times during my in years in Colorado came to mind. It had been decades, probably a college English class, since I actually read the poem. But the few lines imprinted on my mind seemed to so perfectly describe a Colorado spring that it has always stuck with me.
My memory of the poem was, to be sure less than perfect, but it had something to do with the sun coming out from behind a cloud and springtime advancing to summer.
And then, when the clouds come back over and the breeze picks up, springtime retreating to winter.
I loved that imagery. I’m not sure of all the places or times where the jumbled lines have hit me. But I know they have. Maybe backpacking over Arapahoe Pass above the 4th of July campground. Or any of countless other gorgeous places in Colorado.
It took a lot of googling to find the lines from the poem; I never would have found it without the search engine. (A tip o’ the hat to my son, Byron, who works at Google.)
My memory, however, wasn’t playing tricks on me:
. . . . .
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
. . . . .
That’s just the way it was as Bridgett chased bubbles around the backyard. When the sun was out and the wind was still, we were two months on in May. And, in the next moment, we were back in March.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Poetry is not my strong suit. But that image has stood the test of time for me.
And, it’s funny how things work out sometimes. When the sun warmed my back the other day and conjured up Frost’s words, I had no recollection of the title of his poem.
But, when I looked down at my little granddaughters, the title was also a perfect fit: two tramps in mud time.