Sidewalk war over civil freedom

05 April 1998

... continued from page 1

In Arizona, flocks of flowers in great abundance attract thousands of tourists who love and admire flowers: poppies, strawberry hedgehog cactus, fiddleneck, saguaro, desert dandelion blue lupine, desert chicory fairduster, ocotillo, desert marigold, Mexican gold poppies and many, many others. I have visited Arizona twice but alas during fall and winter.

Roller blades in hundreds whirred in the park and streets, convertible tops came down, fishing rods, tennis rackets came out. In the country, lawn movers buzzed, strutted, stopped and moved again; trowels, garden umbrellas, garden spades and water sprinklers came out from garden sheds.

Gin and tonics, cool beer and campari soda became popular.

Last Saturday, we drove to Long Island to a beach on the Atlantic Coast. Even though it took us two hours of drive to get there we left hurriedly because it was bitterly cold. The strong cold gushing winds also blew the sand from the sand dunes into our faces and our hair. Oh, how I longed for the special eye lashes of the Egyptian camel to protect my eyes!! My sunglasses were no help at all.

Temperature is in Celcius degrees, red=warmer, and blue=cooler 

I marvel at how 500 desert runners who pay £1,900 (RM 11,400) each for the privilege to compete in the Saharan sands of southern Morocco the toughest foot race in the world, could endure temperatures of up to 120° F and be able to cope with 600ft dunes which slip and slide underfoot, poisonous snakes, sandstorms, riverbeds and rocks?

In spring, my memories raced back to my kampung in Bandar Kok Lanas-Pulai Chondong in Kelantan when as a boy and even in early teens my friends and I, following the padi harvest and "kenduri beras baru" (new rice tasting) feast, would fly our "Wau Bulan" kites in the freshly harvested padang or fields.

The "Wau Bulan" soared and swooped in magnificent crescents and arcs across a splendid blue sky, spurred by tender gusts of breeze as a dozen gadis kampung or village maidens and their chaperons applauded. We exchanged bashful glances and talked and made secret plans to meet.

After intermittent wet days and sun, the millions of struggling buds seemed to have suddenly leapt into bloom in the last two or three days. Daffodils nodded along the highways parkways and nurseries. Flower shops are stacked with trays of fresh daisies and primroses and pots of beautiful plants. New York florists, even in winter, never lack flowers and plants but now prices are cheap which is a tremendous help for such a poor diplomat-cum scribe.

The flowers - orchids, pansies, tulips, hyacinths, daisies and roses to name a few - are in abundance and in all the primary colors

In the Central Park, thousands of people are out at every hour of the day - because the weather is so pleasant (after four months of winter, though not as harsh for two years now by New York standards) - parading their newborn babies, spouses or lovers and occasionally their octogenarian or older parents or relatives; others walk their dogs or have picnics. Many others watch them, and a few like me mentally scribble about them.

Imagine. I see scampering squirrels in Central Park. I have to work hard to see squirrels in Kota Baru, even in Kok Lanas!

Spring is beautiful, pleasant of the three other seasons; it is not just a season for outdoor fun and games, it is also cleaning time - spring cleaning of houses, closets, bookshelves and study - and since we live in an apartment, thank God, I am spared cleaning the garden and digging into earth, occasionally wet, as was my custom when in Kuala Lumpur. What a relief!

As I write this I can see from my drawing room window a throng of people enjoying the balmy weather in the park and when I publish this article I will dash to join them, to wander in abandon curiosity and contentment as if I am, at last, free of all zillion things and responsibilities

Spring is a balm, spring is beautiful and I warmly embraced it. John Masefield John Lyly and Thomas Nashe come to mind:

I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,
Bringing the spring grass and the soft warm April rain.
- Masefileld

The morn not waking till she sings.
Hark, hark, with what a pretty throat
Poor robin-redbreast tunes his note;
Hark, how the jolly cuckoos sing!
Cuckoo to welcome in the spring,
Cuckoo to welcome in the spring!
- John Lyly

and finally:

The fields breathe sweet,
the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet,
old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet,
Cuckoo, jug jug, pu-we, tow~tta-woo!
Spring! the Sweet Spring!
- Thomas Nashe.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )