‘June whispers that anything is possible’


Photograph by Professor Bop

From The Threepenny Review:

June played the violin. I never heard any of her performances myself, but I heard a lot about them. My friend Big Darryl Greenfield, also a ninth-grader, said about a musical number June played at their graduation, “I don’t usually like the violin, but she was tearin’ it up.” I borrowed Darryl’s yearbook so that (I didn’t tell him this) I could gaze upon and occasionally kiss June’s picture, which showed her smiling in her graduation cap. June was part of a group of musical friends to which I was connected tangentially. To have a stronger tie to those superior beings, I signed up that spring of 1977 for summer clarinet lessons with the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program—not to be confused with the actual D.C. Youth Orchestra, the program’s elite, of whom June was one. The program had three levels of bands and orchestras, and I got the unspoken message that the orchestras, with their stringed instruments, were considered more important. While I spent that typically sweltering D.C. summer riding two buses to my lessons, squawking and squeaking through quarter- and eighth-notes, June went away to a music camp, adding physical distance to the other forms of distance separating us. And as I waited that summer for the promised postcard from her, which never arrived, June—and, by association, the violin—came to represent for me an unattainable ideal.

June itself, not the girl but the month, has something about it of the unattainable, the unfulfilled promise. That is, paradoxically, because June, at least in the cities where I have spent my life, is the only reliably spring-like month. Spring officially arrives in late March, finding a lot of people still wearing their winter coats; April and even early May sometimes carry a chill. But in June we can venture outside, where green leaves and flowers are, contending neither with the cold nor with the heat of that long march from Independence Day to Labor Day, that season of commuting in sweat-dampened shirt collars over gradually shortening days. June brings freedom and those wonderful extra hours of sunlight, June whispers that anything is possible, and therein lies the ache: as its days fly by—it is, in the end, just another month, and one of the shorter months at that—we may feel a vague regret over what we have yet again failed to achieve, a hint of sadness for what was promised but not delivered.

There is an answer for this, one that has something in common with my long-ago crush on the girl June: a focus on the feeling itself rather than on where it might lead. In my adopted home, New York City, one way that I revel in the feeling of June, of spring, is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, particularly at night, when the Manhattan skyline is lit, each of the many brightened windows in the silhouettes of those tall, tall buildings suggesting industry, energy, creativity. The sense of possibility this inspires, the belief that we can do, that we can at least try, may lead somewhere; but it is also a wonderful thing all by itself.

“Jazz June”, Clifford Thompson, The Threepenny Review