Spring arrived in the post the day I was admitted to hospital. I didn’t see it until I was lucid the next day, with tubes and needles all down my right side. Spring was bright green – so green it just sang as it sat there, and I could only look at the luminous green through the morphine haze.
And it’s that glowing green that (usually) takes my breath away when spring rolls around. I never quite expect it, that overwhelming green. In spring we cycle the streets and yell SO GREEN to one another at every corner. So fucking green.
Tubes out (breathe in and hold it, hold it or your lungs will collapse) and stitches tight and home. Home for rest and recovery and learning how to breathe again. Home for reading. Home for Spring. I finally read it in a day in a daze – I couldn’t take it all in. It was too much. Too much life, too much death. Too many threads that I couldn’t hold in my head. So I read it again.
Spring has it all – youth, change, life, newness, hope, and magic. And it has Katherine Mansfield, that little savage from New Zealand, as they said, like me, who struggles to breathe and misses home and spent her entire life as a revolutionary of form. But Spring also has despair and death and destruction – for April truly is the cruelest month, and the winter kept us warm. But now? Spring sees the melting of the snow. The light comes back in Spring, and with it comes the ability to see – the ability to see the world at its worst.
For the world is at its worst. But there’s still goodness. There are still disruptors – those beautiful beings Smith brings forth on the page – The Accidental’s Amber, Winter’s Lux, and now Spring’s Florence (an echo of Pericles’ Marina). Incarnations of hope and truth and goodness – beings such as these do truly exist in the world and we must listen to them.
It’s the youth that are the disruptors of the day – Malala Yousafzai, Emma González, Greta Thunberg. DISRUPTIVE YOUTH the newspapers like to condemn. Disruptive Youth people think when I tell them I’m a teacher. How do you deal with the Disruptive Youth in your classroom I get asked in the cycle of professional development and behaviour management workshops and teacher training.
Yesterday I bumped into Ali Smith in a stairwell. I told her that two years ago I wanted to quit teaching but she told me not too. I didn’t. And just a month ago I held my heart and my classroom door wide open as my students walked out of class on their way to protest the way the world works.
There’s magic in youth – not just beauty – but joy and anger and promise. There’s magic in teenagers taking to the streets to call out their governments. There’s magic in the words that spill from their phones and their fingertips and their lips – it’s not academics or lexicographers that define language, it’s the young. There’s magic in questioning and ideas realised. There’s magic in rebellion and creativity and the first moments of independence. And there’s magic in a novel that is just that – novel. A novel that speaks to the present tense is (ha, dare I say it?) a present. It’s a revelation to read words that are about the world right now. Our true historical documents aren’t newspapers or textbooks – our true historical documents are the prose and the poetry of our present.