That Springtime Feeling

I love that feeling of…

…wait for it…


There’s something magical about that moment in time when something is *about* to happen: when possibilities abound, when beauty and excitement lie dormant, just barely out of sight. It’s the time of year when life is almost ready to begin, when the cold sleepy earth is rolling around in its warm comforter, thinking about throwing off the covers and jumping out of bed. I’ve got to admit that the sensation is infectious, and lately I have found myself buzzing with a vague sense of anticipation, but I can’t quite figure out what I’m waiting for.

It’s been several years since I’ve had a complete set of seasons. Since I graduated from college in the spring of 2004, I haven’t had a proper temperate growing cycle. The Wet/Dry seasons of South Florida in no way resembled the “standard” four seasons of the mid-Atlantic; spring manifests itself as a gradual warming followed by flocks of migratory college students in their pale winter hues signaling the 40 day extravaganza on South Beach known as Spring Break. Then last year I just barely missed spring in South America: the weather heated up right after we touched down at EZE.

Winter in New York was pretty mild this year, for which I am eternally grateful, but it was still winter. The endless grays of sky, street, and dirt make for a soporific palette, and the shortened days do not exactly inspire one to leave the shelter of a cozy apartment. Social schedules slow and friends go into hibernation as the winter blahs set in.

After the first nice weekend in the city, I leapt on the chance to get Fiametta out of winter storage. As I froze my ass off driving the wind-blown Manhattan Bridge, I held tight to the handlebars and my mental image of how it’s going to be in a few short weeks when the sun is shining and I won’t need three layers of insulation. It’s so close—I totally didn’t care that I couldn’t feel my hands when I got to work.

Then, inspired by hints of spring popping up around the city: summer concert schedules, leaving work when it’s light outside, early crocuses in miniature brownstone gardens, I became a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It was just a little too cold to wander through the gardens, but I toughed it out with my camera, giddy over the tiny signs of springtime that are starting to appear in corners of the park. The daffodils are up, sending green spears through the blanket of dry autumn leaves that covers the grounds. One or two early cherries are blushing pink, tentatively putting out buds and preparing for the festival in May. There are some brave clusters of violet crocuses pushing through the cold ground.

The gardens aren’t showy yet, and the irises and tulips are still locked tight in their winter homes. But it’s easy to appreciate cabbage-sized irises and vibrant tulips. It takes a little more time and effort to notice the beauty of a garden that is still in transition; to see in the present the beginnings of beauty and know that in the future something great will come of it. That sense of possibility is almost better than the actual culmination. This place will be stuffed with people when the dramatic bulbs reach their full flower, but I get to have this embryonic garden all to myself. It’s my own secret not-yet-fully-formed place, and my imagination fills the gaps, populates the bare mulch with phantom roses and peonies.

The chill eventually penetrated my extremities, and eventually I had to take refuge in the heated greenhouse among the tropical plants that grew outdoors at my old home in Miami. After a brief respite I was back outside searching for the next sign of spring.

I finally found it in the formal marble courtyard at the north end of the park: walk of magnolias, in full blossom. These fragile blossoms decorated the otherwise bare trees alternately with fuchsia and snowy bursts. Magnolias are special, because you have to catch them early. The satin flowers bruise easily, especially on the deciduous versions with smaller more abundant blooms. If you wait too long, there’s nothing but a browned, smelly mess of petals on the ground, not very picturesque. But if you catch them early, magnolia blossoms are sweeter, more delicate than a rose.

I’ve met some interesting people lately, and kind of enjoy the excitement of first date. There hasn’t been anything life-altering, but I think it’s good to be “out there,” even in my own timid fashion. If nothing else, it makes for funny stories in the office.

I don’t like winter, but like so many things in life, intense feeling and emotion is the product of an interesting juxtaposition. If you only ever have summer, there’s nothing to compare it to, and you take those perfect sunny days for granted. If there were no winter, would we care about spring? Probably not much. You can’t have a spring without going through the dreary cold. It’s mother nature’s reward for sticking it out through the shitty times, and I’m ready to cash in.


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