Ever since Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, gave the wax tablet to mortals,
memory, writing and technology have been interconnected.
—Carolyn Guertin

What Not to Write En Plein Air

Back in the stone age of the internet, my aunt Lisa would make some extra cash by ‘flipping’ cars. She would receive the early release of the Fort Worth Star Telegram classifieds by ftp. With a day up on the print subscribers, my aunt would show up at the houses of the unsuspecting sellers, whose ads hadn’t been officially published yet. She’d snap up the best deals, then turn around to sell them a few weeks later for a nice little profit.

One car that didn’t get the boot so quickly was an old emerald green Cadillac. The family passed it around for a few months, enjoying its quirky extravagance. I got to take it on various jaunts—to the mall, to my cousin’s house, to my after school job at a a fast food joint. I was a new driver and it was a lot of car. I was always afraid of parking the thing, of wedging its girth into the tiny spaces at the busy Taco Bell. I lived in fear of the perfect pearly surface getting scratched.

Driving it was a different matter. With the windows down and the moon roof open, the luminous green would slice through the warm Texas air like a magnificent ship at sea. I always think of this car—and the terrifying freedom it brought to my teenage soul—at the start of spring.

On the Vernal Equinox, night and day are equally balanced. The egg stands on end. The whole is divided into parts, equally light and dark. It is a day of rational, harmonious symmetry.

Not so fast. The reality is different:

Symmetrical? No.

Fearful? Yes.

Spring. The word itself suggests danger. Something tightly coiled is about to unleash. In March we are surrounded by unseen energies, but we sense their vibrations in the air. Trees are alive with sap, water is flowing underground. It is a season of chaos, even violence. An early spring walk reveals the detritus of winter, like the aftermath of a disaster or the ruins of a lost civilization. Here is the pitiful corpse of a rabbit, her hibernian demise exposed at last. There are bits of trash and plastic strewn about haphazardly.

Baba Marta

Bulgarian myth personifies spring as a cranky old woman. Baba Marta, or “Grandmother March,” is a mercurial crone whose mood swings influence the weather. When she’s happy, there is sun and warmth. When she’s angry, the frost persists.

But the beginning of spring reminds me more of a giant boy-god, unaware of his size and power. He expresses his exuberant self through gusts of wind. Ignorant of his strength, he knocks garbage cans into the road and fells tree branches in our yards. He lets himself into our snug homes by bursting open windows and doors, curtains snapping in his wake.

Under this pressure cooker of energies, it’s no wonder spring is an unbalanced time, a time to become unhinged. There are powerful forces, both destructive and creative, at work. When you get caught in their paths, hold on to your hat.

Remember those Paul Simon lines from Graceland? Everybody sees you’re blown apart. Everybody feels the wind blow.

Some springs I do nearly fall apart. One March, I was determined to uproot and move from Boston to London. In my imagination I parachuted in, Mary Poppins-like, on an old umbrella. Another March, I nearly abandoned a long-standing and cherished relationship.

Lunging Man by Kim Mitchell

Lunging Man by Kim Mitchell

Other years, I’m more constructive. I temporarily renounce the long haul of novel-writing and take up short stories and poems. Once, I took a life drawing class. I still remember the goosebumps on bared limbs, the minute details of strangers’ bodies on display under the skylight of the classroom. The instructor taught us to keep our hand in constant motion, exploring the flow of energies between our eye and the curves of human flesh before us. The charcoal disintegrated in my fingers as I worked—creation and destruction bound in a single act. It was the perfect antidote to my spring madness.

My personal belief, honed over many difficult seasons, is that you never really complete what you begin at the start of spring. Your life gets cluttered with chaotic energies, extreme notions, and far flung projects. None of these are brought to full fruition. What started them is adolescent and wild. Like the boy-god, it cannot be disciplined to finish what it began.

But I say, start, nonetheless. March turns to April, the lion becomes the lamb. Invisible sap feeds budding leaves, underground water nourishes the emerging shoots of green. The difficult erratic impulses we experience will temper into something more mature and refined.

Still, somewhere on my hard drive languishes a short story I’m sure I’ll never complete. It’s about a man obsessed with seesaws. He pilfers them from playgrounds on moonlit spring nights and fills his back yard with the loot.

His getaway car? An emerald green Caddy.

2 Responses to “Emerald Green”

  1. Brendan says:

    I love your website, Kim! I just now got a chance to see it. Your blogs sucked me right in. Awesome prose and translation of thoughts to words. Very cool! Great job. ~ Brendan

  2. Scott Mitchell says:

    Kim,
    Your writing style is more like spinning words out on spinning wheel with silk results. You are certainly in touch with your heart and soul and can bring it together on paper. I’ll be following along. This is outstanding!
    Scott

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