Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ode to Spring

Having grown up in California, I never truly appreciated the spring until I moved to Boston for college and experienced for myself the long, frigid days of winter, the frozen dormancy of everything, the monochromatic landscape of gray and brown stretching horizon to horizon for months and months on end. Winter reigns the calendar there, surrendering its rule for only a few months of summer with a couple weeks of spring and a few weeks of fall to bookend the respite.

In California, winter is just a name we give to the months when the temperature drops to jacket-wearing weather.  There may be fewer flowers, and some trees lose their leaves, but the landscape remains vibrant, filled with bushes and shrubs and plants and trees that retain their luster in the mild temperatures of the Sunshine State, the hillsides and valleys rendered greener than any other time of the year by the winter rains.  Most outdoor activities exist year round in California; schools have outdoor hallways and passing areas.  Little changes from season to season aside from adding an extra layer or two for warmth.  This is California's blessing.

But it does create a void: a void of longing that, elsewhere, is joyously and enthusiastically met in spring.  It lacks the communal celebration that occurs in those places where everyone has survived together yet another storm, yet another cold spell, yet another winter.  It wants the collective anticipation of warm breezes and open windows and the novelty of sun on bare skin.  It misses the communion of neighbors reacquainting after a winter hunkered down indoors.  

Here in Colorado, our weather is somewhere in between--cold, cold temperatures with lots of sunshine; landscapes at times covered entirely in gorgeous snow, at other times slumping in their brown and barren desolation.  We are not buried in ice for months on end, but we do not have the luxury of simply throwing on a sweatshirt to play at the park.  The cold is more forgiving, or at least more relenting than Boston's, but we still yearn for March when the temperatures occasionally reach sixty and playing outside becomes enjoyable rather than merely survivable.

It's a funny time of year here, a time when I literally watch the trees bud, see the blossoms swell, witness the leaves sprout only to see the entire symphony of life bowed over by inches of snow.  It is not uncommon here to wear flip-flops one seventy-degree day and snow boots the next as we uncover our driveway from the latest blizzard.  It's absolutely nuts.  But it's glorious, because we get a taste of the summer life waiting just around the corner.  It whets the appetite for sunscreen and t-shirts and long mornings at the park and longer afternoons riding bikes and kicking balls and blowing bubbles in the yard.

The kids ask me what spring is, and I tell them it's the time when some days feel like winter and other days feel like summer.  We've been listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons in the car lately, and they're enthralled with "La Primavera."  We listen and talk about why it sounds like spring: crescendos and happy melodies and triumphal rhythms mimicking the explosion of growth and life and activity around us.

There are times I miss California and think how nice it would be to raise children in a place where the park was a legitimate option most days.  I imagine what it would be like to wash my car and have it remain relatively clean for more than two or three days at a time.  I daydream about the ease of schlepping kids from here to there without all the winter paraphenalia.  

But there is something about spring that is too precious to give up now that I understand it, now that I actually feel it.  It has taught me something about waiting and anticipating, about appreciating tiny buds and shoots and growths--small promises of the invisible world at work beneath the surface, about enduring the barrenness and believing its temporality.  It's a season that ministers to the small hopes I nurture for myself, for my family, for the world.

Somehow, spring is worth surviving winter.


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