Rites of Spring….
It is March. Twenty more days left of winter. What is winter though, when you live where the snowfall tends to be measured (by me, at least) in minutes on the ground, not inches?
For the first 37 years of my life, seasons had defined, proscribed roles. Summer was defined by the lack of spring. The gentler breezes, the cooler nights, the incessant green was spring. Summer was travel, heat, vacation. Free time. Lethargy. Steam and haze, the occasional blackout, fans turned backwards in opened windows. Fire hydrants opened, garden hoses spraying, waiting till dark to sit outside on the steps.
Summer is still HHH, but to the N th degree here. The windows won’t crack open after mid-May. The humidity by May, the temperature by May, will have destroyed any thought of spring, despite the month that is left of it.
Autumn once was colorful leaves, and crab apples falling, walking up and down the hilly streets in Randall Manor Trick-or-Treating with the girls, and kicking through piles of leaves. It was designing costumes based on what kind of outerwear or layers could be hidden underneath so it wasn’t too cold to remain outside after dark for hours.
Autumn here seems to be about 15 minutes long, and if you aren’t really appreciating the subtle changes, it seems that summer slips to winter without notice.
In my other life, winter meant snow –snow shovels, snow scrapers, snowballs, and snowmen. It meant there was at least one good snowfall, one that would obliterate the dirt, the grime; one that would cover the un-raked leaves. One that was deep enough to leave piles on the side of the road after the snowplow came through. Many years, these snow events occurred with enough frequency that the pile of discarded snow could be seen in parking lots long after Easter, slowly melting away, no longer appealing but rather a reminder that winter occurred. No snow days really, the City of New York doesn’t declare them (In Arlie’s entire 12 years in school there was ONE snow day, and only because Governor Pataki declared a State of Emergency in 1996)
But down here, winter gets you in this odd beginning grasp, and stops, mid-flight. The temperature falls, it goes down into the teens, but nothing more occurs. The next step seems to be missing from the playbook. All we get is the grey, and none of the wonder or the sparkle or the glow. Because the next thing you know, the forsythia is blooming, the birds are back, and the calendar page flips to March and winter has yet to HAPPEN. My first winter here, there was snowfall. It was approximately 1.5 inches, and my job called me out for the day!
Snow gave spring meaning. The Rites of Spring, for my first 37 years, were simply these two things. My birthday on the 3rd, and The Parade. The St. Patricks Day Parade, held on the second Sunday in March on Forest Avenue, Staten Island New York. And it didn’t matter if it rained on our parade. Or snowed. Or if you stood on the curb, snow piled around you and chilling you to the bones. A parade simply means that winter WILL
end, and that Spring will occur!!! Despite the fact there may be a blizzard the next week, the simple fact of the matter is that thousands of people would line the streets, suffer the cold, bundled up beyond recognition and stand outside for hours to watch the parade. To wave at the marchers they knew, to re-connect with neighbors they may not have seen during the craziness of the holidays, and the time that we stay hunkered down in our homes.
A goodly number were there for the beer. (Green or not, beer never did it for me, its aroma too close to the memory of my mother’s embrace to work for me) But beer or no, the friendship, the memories of hanging out with friends, wandering the avenue for hours on end, singing, laughing and carrying on, these are memories of spring. Of hope.
The idea of reaching my birthday each year without snowfall is disconcerting. It shocks me each year that my birthday has arrived because it couldn’t be SPRING yet, because where is the SNOW??
I have replaced my parade as a harbinger of spring with the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Fest, held in Hampton, the weekend before my birthday. It has become an annual event for me since moving here. Sometimes I go alone, sometimes with friends, always with excitement. I come home full of wonder, with bags of fabric, and my head bursting with ideas. This year was no exception. I have a list of at least three books (Pokey, Jane, Gloria) I MUST own that I couldn’t buy because I spent all my money on fabric!!! (shocking, no??)
Springtime, here we come!
(The weatherman is calling for 3-6 inches overnight. I am so excited!!!!! I don’t trust him, or believe him, but I am thrilled by the thought!!!)
BELIEVE IT!! The snow came, and it STAYED…The Van is frozen shut so I am declaring a SNOW day, and then tomorrow, my birthday, I won’t feel gyped! I shall be posting pix at Flickr shortly, check out the sidebar!