The Eternal Promise of Spring
It comes on slow and muddy. Juices start to flow.
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[Photos by Amy]
Winter on one side of the road, spring on the other.
Where I live (basically, the Frozen North), spring is a strange and extended hybrid season, bringing on a sometimes excrusciatingly slow thaw that — after months of freeze — is visceral.
I think of this extended season (about 10 weeks long, from early March - mid-May) as Demi Spring. And the older I get, the more I treasure its tiny changes.
Pre-daffodils — the snowdrops find their way. What strength does it take for these delicate-looking little spires and blossoms to push up through the frozen earth?!
The birds come back. Every morning is a symphony of sound and movement.
The geese announce their return with their shrill honking. First they come in pairs
… and then in parties
And my neighbor’s sheep drift out of the barn and into the pasture, where they are camouflaged by the landscape’s earthy palette.
Every living thing seems to slowly awaken. Sap starts to rise. I can hear it dripping into buckets as I walk past the stand of old maple trees near the end of my road.
When I used to live in Washington, DC, I was often thrown off by how suddenly spring came on. One day you would wake up, and — you’d have been ushered into the next season overnight.
Springtime in Washington is explosive and spectacular. Blossoms and petals literally rained down on our heads.
Now, living back in my hometown, my experience of spring is extended and incremental. It will snow here off and on until May.
I’m now like an old woman who takes forever to unwrap a gift, picking at the celotape and smoothing out the wrapping paper — because she knows where the real pleasure is.
It’s in the noticing. The listening. The anticipation.
The pleasure of this strange season is embedded in the joys of this real world which surround you — and of nature, which does its own work in its own time, whether or not you are aware of it.
Every morning I dig through snow patches to find little spears of the tender and tough plants pushing through. Peony spears are deep pink, like little tubes of lipstick.
My dog Molly romps over the frosty grass, which is still dormant, but will green up soon.
And, without fail, just when I think about putting my snow boots away, winter makes its way again. This morning I walked right back into winter (along with these Angus beefers).
… and at this moment, the landscape outside my window is obscured by a fierce squall.
… which has become a full-on blizzard.
(Slo-mo Molly! Good morning, March 29!)
But — not to worry. In late-March, this too will pass — until it is repeated.
(I snapped this selfie last April 23rd, standing in my yard)
The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot
I. The Burial of the Dead
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
T.S. Eliot seemed to see spring as a harbinger of cruel hope — because, no matter what, winter always eventually returns.
For me, this season of freeze and thaw is a reminder to look for ways to love the world, just as it is.
RJ Savage’s JUNK FOOD: Things I consume to feel better
The Rite Stuff
“As much as I’d like to embrace the season and lean into my “spring awakening,” it doesn’t come naturally. I like blooming flowers and burbling songbirds as much as the next guy, but I can’t help thinking about the violence and trauma that comes with real transformation: the new is often only possible at the expense of the old. The buds on the trees are encouraging, but because they fill in the starkly bare branches left vacant by the demise of their leafy ancestors. The chirp of new chicks is sweet, but belies the extreme trauma of hatching from an egg.
So, yes, I like spring, but I guess it feels inappropriate to focus on the bright without considering the dark.
Which is probably why my preferred brand of springtime acknowledgement aligns so neatly with that of Disney’s 1940 Fantasia. Specifically, “The Rite of Spring” segment, which pairs Stravinsky’s challenging score with an animated highlight reel of prehistoric life on earth. The music has a strange sound – like early traditional songs mashed with the blares and bells of (early 20th c.) modern technology – but is married with sequences about the earliest life on earth, and all the roiling violence that it wrought. Sure, I mean the T-Rex, but also the gushing lava and jutting tectonics and boiling seas that uniquely combined into a primordial soup capable of supporting organic life.
The premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite” is itself an infamous example of the combustion that can come with making space for the new. When the piece was originally performed as a ballet in 1913 the audience was so crazed by the newness of the sound that they rioted in the theatre. Literally. “Rite” had a violent, uncooperative sound but ushered in a new age in music; Leonard Bernstein later dubbed it “The most important piece of music of the 20th century.”
Likewise, Disney’s treatment of “The Rite of Spring” highlighted the indiscriminate destruction that facilitates real transformation. The evolution of the creatures on screen is mesmerizing and enchanting, but their progress is only possible through violence and destruction. And, spoiler alert: the dinosaurs all die.
I think I return to Fantasia’s dinosaurs time and again because the segment captures the awesome march from the cosmos to the cretaceous, without glossing over evolution’s inherent destruction. And the bombastic dissonance of Stravinsky’s “Rite” remains my springtime soundtrack. I usually hum along (even though it’s difficult) because I am moved with gratitude that at least I didn’t have to claw my way out of an egg to sing my song.
Happy Spring, y’all.
(Here's an historic recreation of the "Rite" premiere, performed on its centennial in 2013.)
Le Sacre du printemps / The Rite of Spring - Ballets Russes
Railey Jane SavageA Century of Swindles, now available from Lyons Press
(Find more of Railey's essays, books, art, and cats at raileyjane.com.)
LAURA LIKES: (Where my friend Laura recommends great things)
“When the weather turns warmer, even if it's just a random day in February rather than sometime after the official First Day of Spring, I get the overwhelming urge to throw open the windows and do some cleaning. Let me clarify that I am not a particularly obsessive, or even good, housekeeper. I just like things to be basically clean and to smell nice.
To me, the scent of clean is … lemons.
I think everyone knows that they're a terrific cleaning tool. They also appeal to the "I want things to be clean, but I don't want to spend hours getting them that way" component of my housekeeping ethos. Citric acid is kind of a miracle worker. Microwave kinda gross? No problem, cut up a lemon, stick it in a coffee mug, add water, hit the "beverage" key a couple of times, let the steam work its magic for 25 minutes or so after it's done, open it up and wipe out the junk that you thought had permanently fused to the sides, plus it smells great. Garbage disposal smells weird? Take the now-softened lemons from the mug and run them through the disposal. Cutting boards a little the worse for wear? Scrub salt into the surface with a freshly-cut lemon. Clean as a whistle, smells great. Copper looking dull? Re-use those same lemons and salt to fix that right up.
I also get a lot of happiness out of waking up on spring mornings and immediately drinking a glass of lemon-infused water. I read someplace that it's a good idea to have a glass of water right when you wake up, and doing this definitely makes me feel energized and ready to take on the day. Plus, it's easy, and I like it so much that it's kind of hard to believe that experts say it's good for you. I mean, if you have lemon issues, skip it, I'm not a doctor, I just enjoy it and it makes it easier for me to drink more water if there's lemon involved. You wake up, you hydrate, and suddenly the day doesn't seem so daunting.
It's like drinking a glass of sunshine ... as if suddenly, on this spring day, anything is possible.”
(Laura Lorson lives in Kansas. You can find her on Twitter @prairielaura)
Our Consumer Reporter Emily Mason’s: “Targeted Upsell: What the Internet wants me to buy”
(Emily reports on the outlandish, expensive, unworkable, or just plain dumb products that are pushed her way through ads on social media)
The Internet seems to want me to become a Yoga Trapeze artist! (I know…!)
This year, spring actually seems to be coming during springtime in my corner of the midwest! Naturally, I have been on the hunt for interesting things I can do outside. Boy — has Instagram delivered.
Meet Yoga Trapeze!
(Yes, this is a thing anyone can buy…)
If you’re seeking to be more active and improve flexibility, then this…thing is for you. With this sophisticated system of… stuff, you can practice inversion yoga!
What’s inversion yoga? Well, apparently it’s very good for your back. And it’s… basically yoga performed upside-down.
Yep, that’s right! You should suspend yourself upside-down!
(Yoga upside-down over concrete. This seems safe.)
And…. apparently you should do it outside! About half the photos have people hanging upside-down out-of-doors! So fun!
If you’re worried about safety, both for yourself and the general public, well— worry not! According to Yoga Trapeze’s website, it’s safe for all ages!
How or why? Because they say so!
Why am I seeing this?
I swear, when I googled “spring activities near me,” I was just looking for street fairs!
Did they sell me?
Of course not.
First thing’s first: I want to liiiiive!
I highly doubt that this is as easy and safe to use as the ad claims. I mean, come on. And me use it? Forget about it. Even on a good day I am not graceful.
Like a judge issuing a restraining order, I’d say it is in everyone’s best interest for me to stay at least 100 feet away from this thing unsupervised, and I definitely don’t want to attempt it outdoors.
The only way that ends is with an ambulance.
(Me, thirty seconds into my first Yoga Trapeze session…)
I’m also annoyed that they seem to be encouraging people to take this outside to public places. I cannot possibly be alone in thinking that this is just plain obnoxious.
Like, sure, take this thing that seems to need a rebar to support it to your nearest park! Because you know what we really need right now? We need to take a very safe low-contact activity and turn it into a potential public health crisis.
So I will pass on the Yoga Trapeze concept (saving myself $119), and find other ways to be a public nuisance (pitching frisbees at unsuspecting picnickers, perhaps.)
I guess yoga on a mat is just too darn pedestrian. But — if it’s all the same to the Yoga Trapeze people, I’ll remain just that. A pedestrian.”
[Emily Mason lives, writes, and resists in Chicago.]
Well, my peeps — you’ve made it through another slice of my little world.
Congratulations, because sometimes you reading about it is far easier than me actually living it.
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Springing forward, I remain —
Loved this post. As a Arlington, VA native I am used to the many “fake springs” DC has before the true spring. Right now we’re bouncing back and forth between warm sunny days and freezing rain (or even snow last weekend)! Even for DC, it’s a little odd. But the cherry blossoms and tulip trees are blooming and it is indeed gorgeous outside.
NC skips the much-missed snowdrops & crocus, going straight to daffys & paperwhites, narcissus & jonquils. Our first round was in Feb; second run died off a couple of weeks ago. Bartlett pears are haphazard, going from not yet to done, and the pollen layers on cars gets thicker every day now.