However, personally, I tend to associate love with early autumn. Why, you ask? Well, it’s probably in part because that’s when I first met Bonnie. Having been an academic, though, it may also be that fall was always a year’s “real” beginning. Of course, as a theatre person, it was also because of this quote:
You wonder how these things begin.
Well, this begins with a glen.
It begins with a season which,
for want of a better word we may as well call- September.
It begins in a forest where the woodchucks woo,
And the leaves wax green,
And vines intertwine like lovers; try to see it.
Not with your eyes, for they are wise,
But see it with your ears:
the cool green breathing of the leaves.
And hear it with the inside of your hand:
The soundless sound of shadows flicking light.
Recall that secret place.
You've been there, you remember:
That special place where once-
Just once- in your crowded sunlit lifetime,
You hid away in shadow from the tyranny of time.
That spot beside the clover
Where someone's hand held your hand
And love was sweeter than the berries,
Or the honey,
Or the stinging taste of mint.
It is September-
Before a rainfall-
A perfect time to be in love.
When I was in college, in 1963, my roommate had just been to New York and seen The Fantasticks (which had opened in 1960) and he came back to school with a copy of the original cast album, which he then proceeded to drive me crazy with by playing it over and over, to the point that I got a more than a bit sick of it.
Then, I think it was Spring Break of that same academic year, I got a chance to go to NYC with some friends and they all wanted to see it. (I wasn’t especially enthused at this idea, but I went along with them to see the show in its “original” production at the old Sullivan Street Playhouse down in the Village). Obviously, the original cast was long gone, although the one we saw was quite good. I am forced to admit that I, obviously, fell completely (and hopelessly) in love with the show, so I promptly bought the recording, played it constantly, and still would place this show near the top of my list of the greatest shows ever written. And this feeling remains true to this day even after seeing it several more times in other places and being involved with (I think) FIVE different productions at WCU (designer, cast, director, crew, you name it). I still think it MAY be as close to perfect a musical as one can get. It not only has some really clever comedy, but some matter for real thought as to the nature of love and the difference between love and infatuation.
I think that, like all males who have ever had the slightest desire to think of themselves as a “Romantic Hero,” (almost every guy I’ve ever known) I’ve always identified a bit with El Gallo. But the teacher in me may identify with him even more than the (used to be teenaged) Romantic. After all, I think most of us who have ever been teachers can understand this one of his speeches:
There is a curious paradox
That no one can explain.
Who understands the secret
Of the reaping of the grain?
Who understands why Spring is born
Out of Winter’s laboring pain?
Or why we all must die a bit
Before we grow again.
I do not know the answer.
I merely know it’s true.
I hurt them for that reason;
And myself a little bit, too.
I’ve never known a decent teacher who enjoyed assigning poor grades to any of their students, or otherwise giving their students a hard time. And I’ll tell you, if you haven’t already learned it, that doing so hurts, even when you know it’s the right thing to do. You do it, but you don’t like to do it. However, as Sakini says, in The Teahouse of the August Moon, “Pain make man think. Thought make man wise. Wisdom make life endurable.”
I’m not sure what got me onto this philosophical track, probably it’s the fact that it was almost a year ago that I became a “minister” so that Maggi and Brian could get married when they wished. I guess, however, that I’ve always had a bit of a philosophical bent about me. I’ve always enjoyed mythology of all sorts, although I’ve never really studied mythology per se to anything I’d call “depth.” Theatre is, as I’ve said before, believed to have sprung from mytho-religious roots and has often told the stories of various mythological creatures and the interactions of men and gods, so that could account for at least a part of my interest. I really can’t explain it, I just enjoy learning about folk tales, myths, and legends.
That interest has led me to spend a little time exploring some of the myths and legends of the peoples who lived in North America before Europeans arrived. It’s also true that I have found the mystery novels of Tony and Anne Hillerman and James D. Doss which involve members of the tribal nations trying to solve mysteries which, often, relate to traditional mythology, etc., to be of considerable interest. They are good mysteries, and they feed my interest in the traditions and beliefs of the native peoples they include.
The fact that my family lived quite near the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee while we were at Western also stimulated some interest in their legends and myths. Andrew Greeley made reference to the Cherokee Legend of the First Strawberry in one of his Blackie Ryan mysteries and I liked it a lot. I wasn’t smart enough to copy the exact version he used in whichever story it was, but I have found this version which I think is pretty close to the one which I first read in Greeley’s book. I think it’s quite appropriate when one thinks about love.
The Cherokee Legend of the First Strawberry
At the dawn of time, the first man and the first woman set up their home together by the side of a
great broad river. They had everything they needed for a blissful life: Fruit, berries, meat and fish,
plenty of wood and fresh water and, of course, each other. They lived as happily as any man and
woman have ever lived together, until their first quarrel. It started with a small thing. First man said,
“Why didn’t you cook this?” and then, first woman said, “Why didn’t you bring in the wood for the fire?”
Pretty soon it got worse, with first man saying, “Why didn’t you tidy that?”, and first woman saying,
“Why are you so messy?” Pretty soon, both the insults, and a few wooden plates and bowls, began to
The first woman was so upset that she decided to leave the first man. At the break of day, while he
was still asleep, she set off down the valley, heading towards the rising sun. She walked and walked,
always looking straight ahead of her, and not once turning back. When the first man woke up and saw
that she was gone, he waited for her to come back, but she did not come back. He found her tracks
along the valley, but she had a long head start on him, as she did not stop or look around.
The sun was now high in the great blue sky. It looked down upon the first man, as he followed after
the first woman, and it saw that there was sadness on the face of an otherwise pristine and perfect
world and all his surroundings. The sun asked the man if he was still angry with his wife. He said that
he was not angry with her. The sun asked if he would like to have her back. He said that he would like
to have her back. And the sun took pity on the first man and decided to help him. His gentle rays
touched the ground along the woman’s path, and a huckleberry bush sprang up. Its fruit was shiny
and enticing, but as she passed, her eyes remained fixed on the distance, and she did not see the
So the sun shone again on the ground up ahead of the woman. He caused a clump of blackberries to
grow up beside her path. She refused to even glance at them.
Then the sun thought that he must create something entirely new; something so vivid, so fragrant,
and so delicious, that even the first woman could not fail to take notice of them in her resolute and
He blessed the ground again with his rays, and the first patch of strawberries spread over the ground.
Their sweet scent filled the woman’s senses, and her mood became lighter. She began to look around
her, and she saw the bright red fruit hiding beneath the leaves. It looked so enticing that she picked
one and tried it. She tasted the strawberry on her tongue, and she began to remember the happiness
she knew when she first set up home with her husband. She looked at the half-eaten strawberry in her
hand and saw a bright red heart. She found she no longer felt the pressing desire to leave him. She sat
down on the ground and wondered what she must do. By the time she had eaten a few more
strawberries, first man had caught up to her and sat down quietly and smiled. She gave him a
strawberry to eat.
They both then realized how much they cared for one another and walked back home together taking
a few strawberry plants with them to plant at their home so they would not forget this lesson. Do
nothing in haste, consider all things thoroughly and always forgive one another of your faults.
Love isn’t just for Spring. Love is for always. How do I know that? I pay attention to the legends of the people. All people. Why? Because our legends go a long way towards defining who we are and where we belong in the Universe. They are worth paying attention to. Perhaps we would all be better people if we spent less time in a digital frenzy and more contemplating our own culture’s foundational legends. Many legends are NOT literally TRUE. But they are important, because “Legends are lessons. They ring with truths.” They are worth remembering.
Cyrano do Ber…. No!
Diego Montoy…. No!
P.S. It MAY be a while before my next post, as I am having my left knee DONE (as they say) next week and I’m not sure what that means in terms of how long it will take for me to get to my next post. I haven’t forgotten, though, so, “I’ll be back!” I just don’t know exactly when.