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Waiting for the Sun

I will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
Alive

e.e. cummings

Spring makes it to upstate New York like a late-arriving dinner-party guest. Just as you’ve decided this person’s social graces suck, your guest arrives with flowers and a bottle of good champagne and charms the pants off of everyone else at the party.

Spring is “icumen in,” to paraphrase the silly 13th-century poem.

Now everybody will be digging in their gardens and going on hikes up mountains and tramps through swamps. Fishing. Biking. Birding.

It disappoints me that I don’t like nature more than I actually do. My friends—who politely keep their mouths shut—surely see this as a flaw.

It isn’t really that I don’t like nature. I just have a little trouble relating to it. Take animals. I’m not good at telling one kind from another. I think that’s because we have so many stuffed ones. The stuffed bunnies look like the stuffed puppies, which look like the teddy bears, one of which looks sort of like my grandmother who, when I was a little kid, always reminded me of an elephant.

I like gardens, though I don’t like worms or snakes or slugs and I don’t really like getting dirty and I can’t really tell one plant from another, unless it’s a kind you can eat.

And I like nature walks, too. On the asphalt bike path.

Anyway, I’m going to try to work on this nature problem I have. But in the meantime, spring is here and it is time, even for those of us who are nature- challenged, to herald spring.

One good way is with coats.

I have a muddy-brown coat, plaid-flannel lined, with big pockets. It’s called a barn coat, though I got it at a J. Crew sale and I doubt it’s ever been in a barn.

My friend Karen has the same coat (same J. Crew sale) and when we go out someplace together I figure we look like Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen in 20-odd years. But it doesn’t matter. These are good coats. You can stuff the pockets with all kinds of things: sale flyers from the Home Depot, a Diet Coke, unpaid bills, an extra pair of socks (Karen is an oboist so who knows what oboe-related things she may stuff in her pockets?) and still have room for your hands, your house keys, your cell phone and a lipstick.

There is no better way to face spring than in my brown coat, unless it’s in my black one, a long duster that is lightweight wool and essentially useless against the elements. Buttoned up, it looks like one of those Matrix robes. So the only really snappy way to wear it is unbuttoned, with a bright scarf, while walking down the street in a spanking breeze to some really good destination. Something that involves Hollandaise sauce or potted tulips. You know, spring activities.

A lot of people think spring is garden time. I think of it as hammock time. True, you have to wear a lot of layers and bring a sleeping bag out with you when you sit in the hammock in March. But you are, after all, in the hammock, which must mean that citronella candles and grilled swordfish—with or without Hollandaise—are just around the corner.

Many people think that spring is the time to hang those inflatable Easter bunnies firmly by the neck from their budding crabapple trees. Actually, hanging an Easter bunny by its neck seems kind of passive-aggressive to me. So do wind chimes.

All that time spent tracking down blow-up bunnies is better spent walking slowly through greenhouses, inhaling and exhaling deeply. If you have a mantra, all the better. It’s greenhouse pranayama. Stills the chatter in your brain and gives you the illusion that you are in a garden. One you never have to till or seed or feed or weed.

Finally we come to spring fever. The one thing that even the nature-resistant among us can’t resist.

People talk about spring fever, but no one ever really defines it. I figure it must be like having PMS without the symptoms or being pregnant without the weight gain: You yield yourself to forces beyond your control until such forces ease their hold.

I know what it feels like to be in the grip of spring.

I know what it feels like to feel the sun on limbs too long warmed by electric heat, gas heat, forced-air heat and to know that now is the time to let skin meet the out-of-doors.

I know what it feels like to see the dull, brown bulbs breaking ground with their fat green blades. Or to sit, transfixed, while a lizard or a toad sucks placidly at the grail of air.

I know what it feels like to sit on a rock in glistening mud, watching spring run-off swell and spill downstream and listening to the wind in the trees, which moan like Keith Jarrett.

I know what it feels like to welcome that cheeky, flirty, deplorably late dinner guest, Spring, who shows up with an unapologetic smile and arms full of offerings. And you know that the arrival was—inexplicably—worth the wait. 

—Jo Page

You can contact Jo Page at jopage@graceniska.org


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