Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Think of Sylvia and Joan and Spring

An homage.

Spring glides over New York City this week. The wind is picking up, the frost heave has settled down.

When it is spring in New York, people get the courage to come outside to try on their new selves. A decision was made. Or the winter was so rough that all focus must be sharpened in order to forget it.

In spring in New York, I think of young women who have had enough, the smart ones and the ones who are also smart but also know exactly where to go, which is often very close to where they came from.

In spring in New York, I think about Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, having her romantic nervous breakdown. She learns she is inadequate. I would bring down my paperback from the sunken-in shelves right now and read a random page, but it was long ago lent to someone, I do not remember who, and is certainly lost.

But the quotes from the book never go away and you can read some of the best ones here. They never get old.

But what I really feel, and see, when it is spring in New York, is the back of Ms. Didion's head, at 28, when she says Goodbye To All That, having had enough. She is clear and tough. Some essential internal boomerang has forced her return to New York in old age, but when she was 28, it was time to leave. I do not remember if it was spring when she left, but by summer, it was certain she was not coming back. But now I have become curious so I look it up and there is the line, "And then one morning in April..." so I did remember, somewhere, it was spring in New York, and Joan, newly married, left town.

Spring is when you feel the entire population shifting. The men, certainly. But men often leave quietly in the night, with very little on their backs. The women, or at least the women from the last century, the century I understand without trying to, they feel it dry and damp all at once and they tell you. It is the weariness. The coldness. The chance.  They are reminded it is time to leave. And they write the leaving of it so well.

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