Springing Back

Coltsfoot 001Wild mood swings mark the adolescent phase of a year. We call this phase spring. On Monday balmy sunshine calls for short sleeves and sandals, and Tuesday it may snow. Even so, watching tenuous green shoots emerge from ground and branches keeps hope alive, reminding us that seeds will soon turn into early produce, we’ll romp in shorts, and the season of “easy living” is just around the corner.

Although I generally spurn ritual observances, I do have rituals for greeting spring. I wrote about one of my annual rites, a walk down the road to look for the first coltsfoot blossoms, in a post on Story Circle’s One Woman’s Day blog last Sunday. You can click over there to read about the surprise I found this year.

Other rituals include slipping into my favorite sandals and freshening up white pants. I’ll snip a few sprigs of budding forsythia, and daffodils will soon follow. As soon as the temperature is above 70˚ on the sun porch, I’ll be out with the vacuum and dust rag, preparing to enjoy the view of our surrounding woods and wildlife for another season. The first day of spring also heralds the advent of my April birthday. Turning the calendar page seems more real once spring arrives.

My thoughts flow to memories of apricot blossoms and fragrant lilacs, tulips and the first trip down into the canyon in those spring years of my life. In high school, no matter what the weather, on cool days after April 1 I’d switch from my winter coat to my gold wool Topper sweater. After Easter, whether early or late, it was time for white shoes, skirts and slacks, worn only between Easter and Labor Day. Cotton skirts replaced wool ones. These fashion dictates were mandatory, at least for me. Though I don’t recall observing others through the eyes of the Fashion Police, I was in compliance.

I always celebrated spring with a trip to the fabric department at Clement & Benner in Los Alamos or Dendahl’s in Santa Fe. Carefully hoarded babysitting money went toward flowery percale, gingham checks, or solid sailcloth. Sewing was a constant part of my life, with fabric choice marking advancing seasons.

My sophomore year in high school, specifically my sixteenth birthday, is my archetype of spring. That year my paternal grandmother sent me a wondrous present: a generous length of buttery yellow calico, sprigged with tiny spring-green blossoms. That fabric lit my day as gloriously as the streaming sunshine. The freedom to choose my own design seemed as much a part of the present as the fabric itself. My birthday was on Saturday that year, and we always opened presents at breakfast. By Monday that fabric had become a full-skirted dress with a simple scoop-necked top. Elbow-length sleeves were cut in one piece with the bodice, the waist set off by a sewn-in green cummerbund sash. I felt like a May Queen in that dress and wore it for several years.

Moving back even earlier, I recall spring as a time for new balls, jump ropes and jacks, snitching chalk for hopscotch grids, and softball at school (I prefer to block memories of being the last one chosen for teams). Add in baby chicks, Easter, and helping plant the new garden to complete the picture.

No other season, not even New Year’s, has quite the same intensity of optimism and eagerness. Today most of the rituals, like new balls, hopscotch, and sewing, are observed only as memories. But I still treasure the sense of internal sap rising with that in the trees, and writing my way back through the years gives me a satisfying sense of continuity and progression.

Write now: jot down an essay recording your memories of spring. Does any particular one stand out in your mind? How has your observance of spring changed through the years? Do you have any seasonal rituals such as spring cleaning or switching out your wardrobe? What does this season mean to you? How has that changed?

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