A day like today reminds you of how you got here, of the struggle, of the good in your life—and of a tiger, a lion, and an old man.
The sun shines stark white, shimmering in a way that reminds you that it is a star, technically a yellow dwarf, but it seems not so yellow, and not so dwarfish to me on this March day. The sky looks pale blue, washed out along the edges of the horizon as if spring were struggling to reassert itself, though I well know that in this part of the world the first half of the month often brings a last spasm of winter’s recurring death. The soothsayer told Caesar to beware the Ides of March, but I always look forward to them, weary of the dank drabness of winter.
The waxy, dark green leaves of a magnolia suggest the magnificent white blooms that will soon reside in those thick limbs. Sprigs of the weeds we must fight off each spring are making their initial appearance, taunting us as we fight a battle that seems never-ending. Yet we know that the new grass will eventually push through the old and it will win, as it does each year.
At least the greenness means life, and that is reassuring.
A dog sits sunning himself in the near-70-degree temperatures, thanking the sun for coming back, for emerging again and defeating the dark that had enveloped us in a freezing cold blanket called the “polar vortex.” We humans, however, know better than to grow sanguine regarding our prospects. The cold is always there, hiding in the shadows, waiting to pounce. The trick is to follow the dog’s example and absorb as much light as you can, when you can.
I walk by this spot nearly every day. The dog is orangish brown, with long legs and a bulldog-like face. I often wonder what breed he may be. Probably a boxer. He usually springs into action when he spots me, barking and growling fiercely as I walk by. It’s a ritual he seems to relish. A reflection of his nature.
Today he sprawls in the sun and remains quiet. At peace. I think of my first dog, also of a flat-faced breed, a Boston terrier with a fierce disposition who was loyal to me in a way that was just as profound as his ferocity. It reminds me of the tiger, of his wonders, and of his ferocity.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
…When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
It’s a question as old as mankind, and I can only conclude that he who made the lamb made the tiger as well.
I stop and watch the dog for a moment or two, and he turns his head a little. I know he sees me, but he gives no notice. The tiger and the lamb. And it occurs to me that the lion, another fierce big cat, is a symbol of Christianity as much as is the lamb:
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5)
The judgments of God. An appropriate point to ponder in this day and age.
A tattered Stars and Stripes hangs in front of a neighbor’s house, looking as forlorn as can be.
My father is at my home, having lately moved in with us. Some days he seems as forlorn as that flag. On others, he joins the blue jays, red-breasted robins, and cardinals flicking around our backyard, lighting, observing, and taking flight. He watches them and laments his great age and infirmity. But he still comes out to watch them. In his way, he is joining the silent chorus that foreshadows spring.
Like in T. S. Eliot’s “Gerontion,” I wonder what comes with time: “Here I am, an old man in a dry month…I an old man,/ a dull head among windy spaces.”
Youth and age. I’m dreaming of both. After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Only this: In the juvenescence of our years comes Christ.
Grow weary of winter. Rejoice in spring. Be watchful for the tiger, mindful of the lion.
The Tyger , by William Blake, detail of a plate illustrated and printed by the author, collected in Songs of Experience, printed c. 1794 (William Blake Archive)