Spring has nearly arrived. But this year, unlike any other, I am not hungry for it.
My fuzziest socks lay unworn in the drawer, my store of tea remains undamaged by the season’s demand, my extra blanket rests lonely in the closet. Because this year in Virginia, we saw no real snow, endured no cleansing cold.
We didn’t hunker.
We can think of winter as biting, painful, lonely. But I think we also benefit from the paring down that winter asks – the trees naked, the ground sparse. This freezing near-death of things creates a barrenness and sterility, an emptiness in our surroundings that makes way for a certain clarity of mind and spirit. Without the clutter of outside, we turn inward.
It’s a relief.
And then, as with all cycles, we get tired of that. We deplete our stores of spirit just as we deplete our stores of food. We come to spring emptied and scoured by the cold.
March is supposed to be the month of transformation: in like a lion, out like a lamb after all. In this month, we dare to let ourselves dream of spring. We wait desperate for the sunlight that will fill us up so that we feel warmed from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.
Except this year, the lion never showed.
I understand that we can’t measure the degree of climate change through the sporadic weather patterns of a particular day (or season) in any given region. I also understand, however, that the place of my home in Virginia has enjoyed a documented period of cool in recent years, despite the fact that average global temperatures have risen steadily. Until last summer, we had been largely spared the kinds of weather we can expect from a warming climate.
So, I wonder, is this our new “winter?” Anemic. Ambiguous. Thawed?
It’s 70 degrees right now. By all accounts, a rare and gorgeous day. An April day. A May day. I’m sitting writing this on my deck. The birds, reunited at last, sing a welcome to old friends in the treetops; the dog, sleeping at my side, communes with her old friend, the patch of sunlight by my chair; the daffodils and crocuses we have tried for a month to coax back into their winter fortresses, have arrived early to the party, unable to contain themselves a second longer.
Of course I’m enjoying this day, but it lacks the usual euphoria of spring. I don’t feel transformed. The rhythm of the season has skipped a beat, (I suppose the lion went the way of the drummer), leaving my own clock out of wack.
This all came home to me the other day when reading a blog I really enjoy called "the spirit of the river." The author’s post, “in like a lion” shows a picture of a snowy yard and includes a poem that aches for spring called “March” by David Budbill. It’s about how we anticipate spring before it has a chance to arrive.
The poem, however, doesn’t work for me this year, when spring’s reality has robbed us of anticipation, preceding the dream of itself. And it occurs to me, will the poems of winter, whether lamenting the hard, cold dark outside, or celebrating the soft warm light inside, begin to ring false? Will winter’s words become relics of nostalgia for a season lost?
Of all the things I thought might change with the climate, I hadn’t considered that we’d need new poetry.