Chapter 5        

            The next morning, Until baked biscuits. After breakfast, Unless and Until went to the front room to consider where to hang the picture of the whale. Both were considering how much it would always be a reminder of Unless’s illness. Unless thought it would always remind them of Until’s constant care.
            Unless said, “We hung the picture of the dry place with the birds in the hall upstairs. Is there room for this one up there, do you think?”
            “Yes, we wanted those wondrous birds to be high up, like the clouds, but the whale is down in the deep. Would that be right?”
            “If we put it down in the cellar, we’ll never see it and it might get damaged. Maybe putting it up high can represent depth, by showing how much higher we are here than the whale is down in the ocean.”
            Until thought about the cellar, and how they had put the red flying rat picture in the stairway. Unless had not mentioned it. Until said, “The upstairs hall sounds fine. We’ll hang it today and get a look at the next picture.”
            The next picture was bright and cheerful, but it left them both silent and thoughtful. There were chores to do, with Spring coming. Inside, there were bound to be small repairs to do. The roof always needed close attention after Winter weather and before the Spring rain, and the shutters had to be replaced every few years. Outside, the garden would need to be turned and ready for planting once the danger of a freeze had passed.
            During a few weeks of clear weather and hot afternoons, Unless and Until gave the contents of the house a thorough cleaning. Mattresses were aired and turned and rugs were beaten. Every floorboard was swept and scrubbed, and the warm breezes coming through every open window did their part to clear out the chill of winter from stuffy nooks and crannies. The new paint on the repaired shutters dried beautifully.
            There was nothing more to be done to prepare for Spring. Spring had come. The next morning, Unless and Until finished their toast and jam and took their tea into the front room to finally look at the next picture.
            “Well, it took us long enough,” said Unless, laughing.
            “We have had things to do,” said Until, sharing the laughter.
            “And we know what the painting is,” said Unless, “or it seems we must know.”
            “Yes, but it is so strange!” said Until. “Why would we send ourselves this painting from our travels? It is wonderful to have another painting of something we remember, but this does nothing to bring our travels home with us.”
            “I wonder if we were homesick on our travels,” Unless mused.
            Until exhaled slowly, and the two looked at the picture in silence for several minutes. Faint music coming from the direction of the village distracted them from the picture and drew them to the open window. They both laughed a little uncertainly, exchanged a look, and went out into the front yard, and stood looking expectantly down the road to the village.
            The music grew louder as the parade approached. It was just as Unless and Until remembered, and just like the parade in the picture, as if it had been painted by a bird in the trees watching the village road. The villagers marching in the parade played a variety of instruments, and many were simply clapping or hitting pots with spoons. It was an old and simple song that Unless and Until recognized. The villagers sang it every year in a parade to mark the beginning of Spring.

            Hip hip hooray, Spring starts today!
            We hear the bluebird and the jay
            Up in the trees they chirp and shout
            That Spring is here without a doubt

            Yes Spring is now and Spring is here!
            And so we march and sing and cheer
            All Winter we have done without
            The things that Spring is all about

            Just ask us what we know of Spring!
            We’ll tell you we know ev’rything!
            The snow all melts, the sun comes out,
            We plant the seeds and watch them sprout

            We celebrate, Spring’s here at last
            And Winter fades into the past
            The fish know too, the breem and trout
            And every bloom and every sprout

            Now all the trees will stretch their leaves
            to catch the sunlight and the breeze
            Let’s stamp and cheer that Spring is here
            Let’s march and sing that Spring is here

            Hip hip hooray, Spring starts today!
            We hear the bluebird and the jay
            Up in the trees they chirp and shout
            That Spring is here without a doubt


            *** click here for Hip Hip Hooray! ***



            Unless and Until watched and listened as the parade wound up the road and passed their house. Both cheered and waved to the villagers. Soon the parade and all the folk were out of sight around a bend that would eventually rejoin the road down to the village. Unless and Until stood in the front yard, watching after the parade, listening to the cheerful Spring marching song fade into the distance.
            Back in the front room, in front of the picture, and with an hour or so left before dinner, they considered where to hang this painting.
            “Where is Winter the worst, do you think?” asked Until.
            “Hm. The cellar, when we worry there is not quite enough stored,” answered Unless.
            “That is true,” said Until, thinking again about the red rat painting, “Let’s put this painting in the stair down to the cellar.”
            Unless agreed, “That sounds good. Having the two paintings there will remind us of both the worst of Winter and the best, when Spring comes again.”
            Until smiled. They had not wanted to discuss the red rat painting, not knowing how much Unless understood of Until’s terrible anger and sadness when Unless had gone out into the storm. It seemed they were in agreement on the placement of both pictures, and Until was happy.
            They took the picture of the parade and hung it in the stairway down to the cellar, across from the red rat painting.
            Unless became interested in the contents of the cellar and began rummaging around to remind themself of what was there. Until went to the kitchen to prepare some supper.
            Over roast vegetables, Unless and Until discussed the painting, and how strange to have sent home a painting of something from home.
            Unless speculated, “Perhaps we took it with us to begin with, and sent it home when we knew we were not going to be traveling much farther.”
            Until concurred, “That would make sense. It must have been difficult to know what to bring with us, not knowing where we would be traveling. But we would have wanted something to remind us of home.”
            Both were satisfied with these speculations, although neither really remembered setting out on their travels.

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Image: Julie Püttgen, Cloudmapping: Cloud Parade. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil, 12x16", 2008.
Text & Lyrics: JS van Buskirk
Music: James R. Carlson
Animation: Matt Gilbert