I’ve been thinking about spring lately like most of us, I imagine, in anticipation of sunshine, longer warmer days, and rebirth. I’ve been thinking too about war, and the damage it does to individuals and to us collectively. And I’ve been thinking about the power of stories as a source of resistance and hope. I recently had the opportunity to talk on the air with my friend, Melvin Hinton, who hosts a weekly program on WORT, a local community radio station. I’ve been joining Melvin on the air occasionally over the past several years and enjoy the free-wheeling, ongoing conversations that usually begin with poetry but often digress in interesting ways. On this episode, only days into the invasion of Ukraine, I thought it might be appropriate to share something by a Ukranian poet. I found a poem by Kateryna Babkina, a writer in Kyiv, to share on the air with Melvin. In it, one of a few of her poems that have been translated into English, she writes:
And the earth, as though blood, thick and brown, is warm to the touch.
Here even missing obscurities become truly a fog,
With a healing haze they settle on the curves and crevices
Of wounded fields, exhausted, frozen in slumber.
Here life has been enchanted, and life, surprisingly,
nests in homes with children’s laughter, like foxes in dens,
With early cherry blossoms it covers gardens
where missiles have twisted the roots,
With little bluish clouds in the cold air, it marks human breath.
In an interview in The Odessa Review, Babkina describes readers as “people who are open to different perceptions of the world and want to open their own perception even more,” a description that I believe fits our members and readers of this magazine. It is my hope that the stories we tell, the people we celebrate, and the ideas we explore in these pages four times a year, are ones that expand our perceptions of ourselves, our state, and our world. The work we do at the Academy and in the pages of this magazine is a labor of love for Wisconsin, its people, and its ongoing tradition of innovation and progress in the sciences, arts, and letters.
As we celebrate the return of spring, let's appreciate the laughter of children, the blossoms that appear anew each year, the stories that we write and read and tell each other about our lives. In the face of ongoing threats to the enchantment of everyday life, let's remember the power in community and in nature. Let’s look for ways to come together, get outside, open to new and different perceptions, and enjoy this season of renewal together.