Monday, March 2, 2009

Spring is Autumn is Spring

I remember once when my high school teacher made fun of us on a chilly autumn day for complaining about how cold it was. It was maybe 50 degrees. She said this was the exact same temperature it would be in spring on the first day when we declared it to be spring, and we'd be ripping our sweaters and saying "Oh, It's so warm!"

I wonder if she knew that one day throughout the Northeast United States people would think that flip flops were appropriate footwear all year 'round?

Today's massive snowstorm makes me think that we (and by 'we' I mean those of us who live in parts of the world with clear and dramatic separations of seasons) approach spring in the same way we do autumn, but in reverse. In autumn, we understand that snow and ice and cold temperatures are a sign we're meant to hunker down indoors, prepare our homes for the inevitability of being snowed in or unwilling to venture out in the cold, and get used to taking extra precautions when traveling. We know we'll eat more, to keep warm, and probably put on weight, as our ancestors did. We buy a lot of potatoes. We might get sad or tired from lack of sunlight. We swathe ourselves in wool and polypropylene. We hibernate, like bears. We watch the squirrels and birds and deer forage, and toss them some bags of seed. We also become used to a mostly colorless landscape, and the loss of the smells of the plant world as the trees, shrubs and flowers die or go dormant. The color goes out of our lives.

In spring, these expectations reverse. We expect rising temperatures, we know we'll become more active outdoors. Going from one place to another doesn't require as much forethought. We dress in lighter, more colorful clothing, in celebration of the arrival of buds and blossoms and blooms. We eat lighter foods, and our clothes fit the way we want them to again. We make fiddlehead soup. We're assailed by smells: rain, mud, rising sap, flower nectar, baby animals and insects. Like honeybees knowing it's time to pollinate, we flutter here and there, attracted by colors and shapes and feelings we thought we'd forgotten. Spring fever, they call it, but it's really more of a temperate, uplifting feeling than a heated delirium. We're not drunk or dizzy; we're just aware again.

From here on, or for a few months at least, we know it will grow warmer, brighter, more fragrant and colorful, until that bright shining day of late summer when, in the glimmering dusk, we begin to notice the first fading shades of green that announce the season's dying fall, escorting us slowly but surely to autumn's brown and gold, and the thoughtful sere scape of winter, once more.

(photo by Joan Z. Rough)

1 comment :

Luna said...

Oh, amen, sister. This is a beautiful reminder for us all -- and I'm similarly perplexed by the flip-flop phenomenon.