from A Year of Morning Thanks
The Procreant Season
Today is Walt Whitman's birthday, a man whose work I've always liked but not loved (there's no accounting for taste). I think of him often this time of year because, really, spring is upon us. It's sheer joy to walk past our flowers and bushes and tomato plants because it's that time of year when growth can be calibrated in afternoons, I swear. It's the time of year when Iowans say, famously, that you can actually hear the corn grow.
So I think of Whitman these days—that lusty chant of his: “Urge and urge and urge,/Always the procreant urge of the world.” It’s from Leaves of Grass, that ridiculously obsessive yawp, and it's exactly the kind of sentiment that got him in trouble with mid-19th century drawing room literates; but right this minute, the line is on the money. As someone far less famous once wrote and millions copied: "spring is busting out all over."
For more than a week I'd seen a robin on our back lawn, a young lady who looked for all the world a bit too interested in me, like a mom might. But I didn't spot her nest until a couple of nights ago, when the jamboree was such that I couldn't miss it. She had three kids, whose ample mottled chests made it clear that the apartment was itself bursting at the seams.
Yesterday already they were gone. I didn't even see the mom, who must have been out somewhere trying to keep her kids alive. I wouldn't guess that, although they were out of the nest, they'd yet gained all that much moxie, street-wise. I'm no birder, but the likelihood of all three of those insanely hungry kids making it into adulthood probably isn't good. Not all the cats around are bell-ed.
But it's happening, wherever you look, the procreant urge.
Our yard will soon be yellow with maple seeds, those fancy little helicopters that flitter to the ground, head first, and clutter the place. They're starting to descend already. The big maple back there is as lusty as Whitman, tossing off tens of thousands of seeds in a valiant but vain attempt to procreate. Won’t happen, if I have any say. I’m the abortionist—me and the broom and the lawn mower. They're such a mess.
It’s a lusty time of year. Everything is popping. Good time to be alive. And I’m thankful to be part of it, even though my procreant days are behind me. Just got to do something about that cloud of seeds.