Spring has sprung, and everywhere across Wisconsin, we poke our noses out of our front doors, taking stock of the change of temperature and assessing if winter has really passed. I am no exception. I take my first hesitant steps outside; my legs trembling, my skin pale, and my eyes squinting in the harsh daylight. This must be what it was like for early life forms millions of years ago to evolve from the primordial ooze and begin to walk on land.
I stand on the driveway. At first I feel off-balance without the customary weight of the snow shovel in my hands. My walking pace is reflexively slow, but quickens when I realize I’m no longer walking behind a snow blower. I feel the relief of someone no longer in fear of the oncoming snow plow preparing to deposit several metric tons of ice and snow at the bottom of the driveway. There is a spring, you might say, in my step.
Lore is written about the Wisconsin winter, and we certainly don’t need to spend any more time thinking about the winter of ’09 at this point. If you’re reading this, then you are a survivor, and you now have the right to scoff at the harrowing tales of 3 inch snowfalls reported by your friends and relatives in other states. You are made of sterner stuff.
Spring for me is a time to marvel at how intent people are to enjoy their favorite seasonal recreation. I drive past lakes, and half expect to see a boat and a snowmobile pass each other on the same body of water. This natural desire to accelerate Mother Nature is what leads otherwise reasonable men to don their shorts and fire up the grill when the ice on Lake Winnebago begins to crack.
Major League Baseball contributes to our madness by starting the season about 4 weeks early for those of us north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The national media can marvel at Miller Park’s retractable roof and talk about preventing rain-outs, but the local Wisconsin fan knows it also eliminates the irony of playing baseball in the snow and seeing the sausages race in cross-country skis.
The fact that spring in Wisconsin is different from spring in the south is reinforced every year when I watch the Masters on TV. Georgia seems to enjoy the sort of spring which we hear about in poetry and song. Watching the golf tournament, held every year at Augusta National Golf Course, can sap my fragile enthusiasm for our own spring. Early April for us can mean forty degrees, mud, and dirty snow in the supermarket parking lot (as a matter of fact – sometimes that can also be early May). It is a testament to our winters and our character that we can feel optimism in that environment. After an early April walk, I frequently come in from outside, take the muddy shoes off, try to regain circulation in my ears, and say something chipper like “I think the ice might be cracking on Lake Winnebago, maybe I should grill some steaks in my shorts”. Then I turn on the Masters, and my illusion that it’s actually spring here is shattered by the riot of blooming azaleas and the incessant singing of the birds on my TV. The fact that the tournament can now be enjoyed in High Definition only makes Georgia’s spring more vivid, and the 35 degree temperature differential between there and here more profound.
But hey, spring is not a time to wallow in misery. We get to enjoy the occasional warm day, and while the possibility of the random blizzard cannot be completely discounted, we know in our hearts that a spring snow is winter’s dying cry, and we have the upper hand at this point.
So I continue to bravely venture outside more often, with a bottle of sunscreen clutched in one hand and a bottle of allergy medication in the other. I’m so ready for spring that my annoyance is only fleeting when I see the first neighbor setting an unreasonably high standard in the neighborhood by being the first to mow his lawn.
Spring has sprung. We cannot be denied. We’ve earned this. I’m going to go outside to grill some steaks.
Published April, 2009.