Half the snow has melted already, my shoes are muddy, the birds are singing and I couldn’t be happier. The sun is actually warm and the winds bring a smile, the smell of soil, wet trees and hidden fall leaves. It’s January in South Dakota.
Now, if you’re from the Midwest, you’re probably about to say the same thing everyone else has since I was young – “Don’t get your hopes up” followed by (A) a ‘don’t-be-so-naive, just wait ‘til you’ve been around as long as me’ smirk or (B) some vague historical reference to “Easter 2012 (or was it 2013?)” when 12 inches of snow killed every flower and butterfly and the hope of every summer-bent child.
I know. I understand just enough astronomy and meteorology to recall your adultlike facts. But even if this spring doesn’t last and gets buried in snow next week, isn’t it still worth celebrating?
Spring is more than just a warm sun and muddy trails, because winter is more than just darkness and snow. From Oregon to Wisconsin, from South Dakota to Minnesota, everyone knows the eternal days after Christmas and before June: they take a social, emotional and even spiritual toll. These “Marchuary” days bring their unwelcome friends “Seasonal Affective Disorder” and the “Winter Blues.” Winter can have its magnificent moments, but sometimes too much of a good thing (silence, darkness, coziness) isn’t a good thing (loneliness, despair, cabin fever). Winter can be a really tough time, and my journal is already filled with the evidence. And it’s even harder when we’re scolded for hoping this year will be any different: “Don’t get your hopes up.”
Once, I went on a seventh-grade field trip to the Chicago Stock Exchange. Of course, you can’t visit during trading hours, so it was like visiting ghostly circus grounds with none of the music, revelry, animals or acrobats. I don’t think my understanding of stock-trading has advanced much since, but I remember this much: stock traders, with their loud voices and colored coats, are the ultimate opportunists. They sell when the prices spike, they buy when prices plummet, they scream like crazy as their cars cling to the insane swings of their rollercoaster job. Day after day they’re at it again, their fingers always on the tick of our world’s economic pulse. I’m more of a chess player, I thought back then, not a stock trader- I’ll leave thrilling opportunism to someone else.
But spring came fast this year and best believe that I was the first one outside, running our back trails in shorts and wet, brown shoes, my winter-white calves covered with a Pollock-esque splattering of different muds, puddles and manure. It was all a dream. I chased the turkeys up the hill, startled the horses galloping east and heard the sparrows and magpies for the first time. I stretched in the pink-orange light of a sunset and arrived home to a 40+ degree forecast for the next day. Despite my seventh grade predictions, maybe I’m not so different, after all. Stock traders don’t ask why or for how long the prices spike, they just go, they just act, celebrating like mad.
“Can we stop the bus at that gas station just outside of town?”, the JV coach asked. “The PowerBall just hit a billion and I wanna get a ticket before it closes.” She promised me some if I stopped, so I did.
1 in 292 million odds don’t keep people from playing, and they definitely don’t keep people from claiming their victories. I’ve never heard a lottery winner deny the prize because they knew it wouldn’t come again.
As far as I’m concerned, we’ve won the lottery with an early spring. I don’t care if it snows 292 million inches next week, I’m going to squeeze today for all it’s worth, opening all my windows, listening close to every birdsong and writing outside until my fingers go numb. It’s worth it, I need it, and it is a beautiful gift.