Spring- Time for a Change!

crocus snowIt is the end of April and although the temperature at sunrise was only a few degrees above freezing, in New Hampshire we have spring on our minds.  I love winter with its frigid winds that blow drifts of alabaster frost against my window panes.  But in April, I am ready for a change.  And spring is a season of change- crocuses that peek out from under the flakes of a rogue snowstorm, the explosion of yellow forsythia, the promise of buds on the barren tree branches.

Where I work there is a ditch that separates the parking lot and a small field.  When the snow melts, the ditch fills with water that ices up at night and melts during the day.  A couple of weeks ago, I got into my car at the end of a long day of work and sat back, relishing the warmth left by the afternoon sun.  In silence, I watched the wind ripple the water in the ditch, and my mind flew back to the days when I was a child. 

Bodies of water hypnotize children, drawing them near, begging them to forage around the frozen earth until they find something that will float.   A dried oak leaf left behind by last October’s winds makes the perfect canoe, and a blade of new grass its navigator, and before long, an adventure ensues.  At the house on 30 Green Street, I had many such adventures.  On Saturday mornings, it was not unusual to hear my mother admonish us with “Shut off that idiot box and go outside and play!”  It didn’t take long to learn that dawdling inside resulted in being assigned a household chore, so as soon as Roy Rogers and Trigger headed for the sunset, I bolted out the door and headed across the street to play down by the river.

In April, down by the river was alive with the promise of spring.  Under the dark umbrella oftarzan fir trees, a small rivulet bubbled between frozen banks, creating the perfect opportunity to race leaf boats or splash chunks of ice under the surface to see how quickly they would melt.   Tiny sprigs of green peeked from under tufts of grass bleached dry by last summer’s heat.  And in the shaded areas never kissed by the pale winter sun, granular snow formed fields of ice crystals.   I had spent the winter watching Tarzan movies on our black and white television, and imagined the ice crystals were real diamonds, waiting to be scooped up and smuggled out of the African wild.  My fat, Persian cat, Perfidia, who loved to hunt down by the river, became a wild lion.  I faced him down like Tarzan did, yelling “Ungawa!” Undaunted, he sleepily blinked at me, and rolled over to let me scratch his belly.  When I had finished, my lion, purring contentedly, trotted off in search of a field mouse or a mole. 

We repeated this game for years, until I traded fashion magazines and lipstick for woodland adventures and Perfidia grew so old that one day he went down by the river and never came home.

As I sat in my car watching the ditch, I thought about change.  How curious that although I welcome the change of each New England season, I fight the changes that threaten to upset the delicate state of my life’s sameness.  I follow the same routines during most of my days.  I rise at five, shuffle from the bedroom to the kitchen to pour my coffee, and shuffle back to my bed where I sip and watch the news.  I always make my bed before work.  I always check the mailbox when I get home from work.  I always lock the door and turn down the heat before crawling between the covers at the end of a day. 

cruiseAnd yet, like the way spring sweeps away the cobwebs left behind by winter’s dry breath, the spring of my life is upon me.  I’ve packed away my winter coat and rearranged my closet to make room for summer clothes.  I’ve taken on a new and challenging project at work.  And I, who have not taken a vacation in over thirty years, have bought and paid for a cruise to Alaska’s Inner Passage, to be taken at the end of May.  It’s not exactly down by the river, but there will be water and adventure, and excitement. Besides, it’s spring- time for a change.

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Spring Is Sprung

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…”

New Hampshire has had a string of unseasonably warm days that reminds us that spring is only a few days away.  I love winter and am always happy to see the skies fill with grey cotton clouds that dust the bare pavement with downy flakes of white, but by the middle of March I look forward to the days when the ice melts and the earth turns warm and fragrant.  In this part of the country, spring is heralded by the lemon splash of forsythia against muted winter lawns and leafless trees, fat robins searching for worms, and warm breezes that tease my attention from my office and lure me to languish in the sun’s strengthening rays.

Spring- it is the season of promise; a season of buds and baby animals and tiny sprigs of new grass that pop up amid the winter hay.  Everything is fresh and new, and yet, there is a continuity from year to year- like the same song sung with a different beat.

When I was a girl one of the most exciting sign of spring was when I was allowed to play outside wearing shoes instead of boots.  My feet felt light without the bulk of heavy buckled boots and I relished the sound of gravel crackling beneath the leather soles of my saddle shoes. During the early spring when I was very young, I was made to wear rubbers- brown or red overshoes.  They were shorter and lighter than boots, but still added weight and bulk.  To be finally free of boots and rubbers meant I was free indeed.

With the advent of spring came the changes in wardrobe- sweaters instead of heavy coats, cotton dresses instead of wool skirts, anklets instead of knee socks.  With the lengthening days came lighter colors and jubilant patterns.  My sister Robin and I would sit together on the couch with the spring issue of the Sears catalogue and dream about the Easter dresses and white shoes that filled the pages.  The mothers and daughters in the catalogue all wore pastel dresses and light weight coats that coordinated with their hats.  I ached to wear those clothes- to look like the models in all their finery.  However, new Easter outfits were not usually on the agenda in my house.

“You go to church to honor God,” my practical Yankee mother would remind me.  “Not to show off new clothes.”

It was logic that was difficult to argue.

The signs of spring bring memories of playing with spring toys outside the house at 30 Green Street.  Sometime around the middle of March, my mother would visit Thorin’s Hardware Store and bring home a bag filled with paddle balls, jump ropes, and balsa wood gliders.  These were inexpensive toys that lasted only as long as the spring vacation, but they lured us away from the television and books that kept us sedentary during the weeks that were too dark and cold to play outside.  My brothers and sisters and I would hold competitions on the driveway- drawing hopscotch with chalk, or seeing who could skip “peppers” without tangling the jump rope between their feet.  We counted aloud as we bounced the pink rubber ball against a wooden paddle.  We ran to St. Patrick’s church and back, trailing kites behind us, trying in vain to get them to fly.  And at the end of the day when the shadows of the setting sun stole the golden warmth and left shuddering cold in its place, we snuck a daring barefooted run across the icy back yard before our mother caught us.
“Child!” she would yell from the kitchen, “You’ll catch your death of cold!”

But her lips would curl into a small smile, as if she remembered.

When my children were young, they celebrated spring’s arrival much the way my siblings and I did.  I packed away their winter clothing and searched the stores for new spring outfits, while I reminded them that we go to church to honor God, not to show off new clothes.  I bought them sidewalk chalk and kites, and taught them the same jump rope chants I learned as a child.  And although balsa wood gave way to Styrofoam, we still found gliders to swoop across the sky on a gentle March breeze.  They delighted in the lightness of their feet without boots, and every once in awhile, when they thought I wasn’t looking, they removed their shoes and stole a barefoot run across the cold sidewalk outside our front door.

Now that my children are grown, there is no one to celebrate the warming breezes and lengthening days.  I walk across the driveway to work and notice the gravel crunching under my heels, and when I close my eyes, I can imagine a glider doing loop-de-loops across the azure sky.  

I dream of the day when, I have grandchildren.  Although their parents will insist that they go to church to honor God and not show off new clothes, I will sew them new Easter clothing.  I will buy them kites and jump ropes and teach them to play hopscotch.    And when they think I’m not looking, I’ll watch them steal a barefoot run across the cold yard.

10 Reasons to Celebrate Spring

This Sunday is the first day of spring.  Although I would never have said that spring is my favorite season, this year I’ve eagerly anticipated it after a harsh and unforgiving winter.  If you’ve not thought about spring and what it has to offer, consider these musings:

1. Spring smells good.  The finest perfume can’t compete with the fresh aroma of budding trees, baby grass and sun kissed earth.  On windy April days, I love to hang my sheets on a clothesline to soak up the scent of those sweet breezes.

2. Spring invites us to get up off the couch and get our bodies moving.  When I was a child, my mother would go to Thorin’s Hardware Store and buy us kites, balsa wood gliders and paddle balls.  Like the weeks between the frigid New England winters and the dog days of summer, they only lasted a short while, but they heralded the end of icy sidewalks and snow covered back yards.

3. Spring means putting away winter boots and clothing.  As a little girl, it was a thrill to be allowed to finally play outside without winter boots. The sound of sandy pavement crunching under my leather shoe soles was amazingly satisfying, and I loved the lightness and freedom that came when I traded a heavy wool coat for a light spring jacket.

4. Spring holds surprises.  I love the serendipity of stepping outside on a spring morning to find that I do not need to scrape the ice off my windshield, or the realization that I can again take my snow shovel to the attic until next November. 

5. Spring announces change.  When I was kid, I loved to roam the neighborhood, especially down by the river that flowed at the foot of Dye House Hill.   In spring the river changed from ice to water.  The grass turned from ecru to emerald.  Skunk cabbage awoke and in the shade, the fine snow that fell in February had turned to crystals that glittered like giant diamonds when held in the sun.

6. Spring fosters creativity.  What child hasn’t crafted mud pies, drawn with sidewalk chalk and made up new verses for jumping rope?  These are all games of the spring. One windy April vacation when my kids were in elementary school, I bought kites at the dollar store.  They children ran through the neighborhood, the envy of their friends, trying to catch enough breeze for the kites to fly.  Dollar kites do not last long, and before the day was out, Gabe’s was torn and battered.  Undaunted, he pulled out a plastic shopping bag and with some creative cutting and taping, created a new kite, using the frame from the old one.  By the end of the school vacation, the neighborhood was filled with children who had fashioned and flown their own kites.                  

7. Spring paints the world in color.  Although I love the alabaster world of winter, the hues of spring bring welcome warmth to the world outside my window.  The shock of forsythia that appears to have bloomed overnight, the tender pastels of violets that dance on a hillside, and the grinning faces of crocuses popping their heads above the snow ‘s crust bring a cheerful lilt to the soul and a smile to the face.

8. Spring tempts us with delicious foods.  For me, spring arrives with its own cuisine.  Hard boiled Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and hot cross buns are a breakfast treat only enjoyed in the spring.  Comfort foods give way to lighter fare- new asparagus, early peas, and roasted potatoes drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.  Our palates crave fresh fruits and vegetables, and we comply, because enjoying a spring afternoon is far more delightful than standing in front of a hot stove.

9. Spring delights us with a renewed gratitude for life.  As a kid, I loved taking my shoes and socks off at dusk and sprinting across grass much too cold for bare feet.  It was an expression of excitement to just be alive- the same expression we see when spring lambs prance through a field, or baby colts gallop after their mothers.    Flowers nod in the breeze, swelling streams rush toward the gulf and all the world is in motion.  Spring creates the music for a choreographed dance of celebration.

10. Spring brings promises.  Promises that the seeds planted on the windowsill in March will become flowers in May.  Promises that the cold, dark days of winter have ended, the shadowed nights will give way to brilliant sunlight, tears will dry, and laughter will abound.  It’s time to celebrate.  It’s spring.                                                     

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