Puff Balls and Valborg: Primavera

Today marks the actual beginning of Spring, a season I have mixed feelings for. I used to think of it as renewal, but this time it feels like a protracted death. However, when the puff balls start fluttering in the breeze, there is no other choice but to get caught up in the fever.

The first thing to do is commence with the springtime rituals.

1. Amarcord: Fellini's 1930's set film from 1973. The beginning treats you to the advent of the puff balls then takes you directly to the burning of the winter witch. This is the first Italian film I like to watch before moving into Michelangelo Antonioni for Summer and closing the season with Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (aka Lina Wertmüller's Swept Away, 1974). The music in all of these is so evocative of its respective season. Sometimes I listen to the menu music (Piero Piccioni) for Swept Away on repeat. 

2. Swedish Valborgsmässoafton

Originally celebrated by Viking to hasten the arrival of spring and ensure fertility of their crops and livestock. They would do this by lighting huge bonfires to scare away evil spirits and predators. This is the night when the witches ride on their broomsticks through the sky, and the natural world clashes with the super natural. I had a chance to experience this in Philadelphia, at the American Swedish Historical Museum. A bonfire in front of a majestic museum, culture>art. 

3. Risi Bisi (Spring Pea Risotto) and Carrot and Pine Nut Cake.
Venetian style dining. It is said to be the first dish served at the end of April, at the Venetian feasts honoring St. Mark.

St. Mark, Carolingian Ebbo Gospels, 9th c.

Otherwise, in my small world of academia, things come to a close. My last class took place on Tuesday, though I attended not as a student, but as a teacher. It was a bittersweet moment. Many moments these days are. For two years my world revolved around this campus, this consuming experience at Tufts. Watching the seasons change, the sparkling beauty of the warm naive days, the stunning colors in the fall, the long, cruel winters, and now Spring, where we will disperse like so many seeds. All of these served as a silent, stable backdrop to emotional ups and downs, articles read with giddy curiosity while working on three hours of sleep, research, papers, nervous firsts, camaraderie, exams, presentations, lesson plans, overdue books, the special Tower tea, shared snacks, late night library delirium, challenges and epiphanies with faculty, students, each other, office hour tears, friendships made and unmade, isolation, triumphs and disappointments. None of these mundane descriptions can fully illustrate this complex experience. Somehow, Peggy Lee sums it up for me.

Exiting this small universe comes with questions of identity and the future. The program went by so quickly, as quickly as it is now coming to an end. Complete immersion in this atmosphere makes the abruptness of the end much more dramatic, as though we are completely ejected from the safe nurturing home. This month will consist of non-stop efforts to fully realize all academic possibilities and then, that's it. We are no longer students, no longer teachers. The transitions between high school and college and post college were never so harshly distinct as this. In two weeks, I will complete my academic duties. Soon after that, the occasion of commencement. Then, the slow fragmentation of our community.

For now, I am spending quality time finishing my second QP and this weekend, with a stack of papers and exams to grade. I'm excited to see how my students have grown since the first half of the semester, which centered on traditional African art. Some of my favorites from Modern and Contemporary: a major theme comments on freedom, identity, and movement (in terms of recreating, leaving traditional static compositions, and literally leaving for the diaspora), so maybe there will be a sort of renewal, I just can't see it yet.

Nuit de Noel, Malick Sidibé, 1962

Between Heaven and Earth, El Anatsui, 2006