I Used to Hate Spring…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

April puddle

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I’ll admit it: I used to hate Spring.

Why “admit”? Because from what I can tell, most people are thrilled by lengthening days, soft fragrant breezes, and the sight of new flowers pushing up through the fresh grass.

In New York, Springtime is especially noteworthy. Everyone takes to the parks. Lovers canoodle. Pets frolic. And we walk around with goofy smiles and say unexpected things to each other, like “Please,” and “Thank you” and “After you!”

So what’s not to love?

Here’s my problem: Spring can be beautiful, yes. But she’s a tease, and a cold, dangerous one. And she arrives right when you’re at your most vulnerable and depleted, yearning for sunshine, warmth, and hope. Sometimes she delivers. And sometimes she smacks you with grey clouds and cold wet weather.

If you’re in a kayak, Spring is downright dangerous. It’s easy enough to make the mistake of counting on Spring’s gentle smile and promises of balmy weather—then end up trapped on icy waters, with the temperature plummeting below freezing. (That actually happened to us one year.)

Both Autumn and Spring are interstitial seasons, straddling the equinox and marking the transition between cold and warmth, light and darkness. So they’re inherently periods of change.

But you coast into Autumn on a wave of Summer’s energy, with memories of sunshine and light. Seasonal food slowly changes from Summer’s rich fare (corn on the cob, watermelon) to Autumn’s heartier offerings (potatoes, pumpkins, roasts and stews). And there are the holidays to look forward to.

And, if you’re a NYC-area paddler, Autumn is one of the loveliest times to be out in a kayak. True, the days are short, and the winds can already be chilly—but the retained warmth of Summer lingers in the water. You can watch the pageantry of the changing leaves, and slowly get used to the increasingly barren landscape.

By the time Autumn officially ends, it’s nearly Christmas, and the days are beginning to lengthen again. (Vlad’s mother used to say that the reason early Christians picked the 25th of December—rather than the solstice itself—to celebrate was that they could already tell that the days were getting longer, and so could be assured that there was going to be another year—a good thing if you’re going to celebrate Christ’s entry into the world!)

And Winter may be stark, but she has her own special beauty. There’s ice skating and snow, and ice on the rivers. And who hasn’t admired the elegant arms of bare trees against a gray sky?

I’m not the only one who anthropomorphizes the seasons. A little while ago, I bought four coffee mugs decorated with “The Seasons” by Alfons Mucha, the epitome of Art Nouveau. Each season is represented by a woman.

"The Seasons" on our coffee mugs

Alfons Mucha, "The Seasons", 1900 series

Alfons Mucha, “The Seasons”, 1900 series

Spring is the most perfectly beautiful, graceful and pale, but also icy and distant. She’s the feminine ideal in 21st-century America: slim, unlined, radiant.

Summer is bodacious. She’s clearly had a child or two. Her curves have filled out, and her colors are rich and shimmering. Her attitude is one of bounty.

Autumn is regal, presiding over a harvest. Solid and stable, she bespeaks maturity and wisdom.

And Winter is an elegant wraith, slender to the point of boniness, her face nearly hidden by a veil.

Of all the images, I think I love Summer’s lush curves and bright colors the most. And even though I wouldn’t say Summer is my favorite season (as opposed to being my favorite image) it’s certainly a comfortable season, with early dawns and lingering evening light, and reliable warmth. In Summer you can paddle in just shorts and a T-shirt. It’s Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Okay, so I said I “used” to hate Spring.

What changed? A few weeks ago I started a running program. I’d been a runner decades ago, grimly pounding out my 45 minutes three or four times a week, blaring punk rock into my ears to numb the pain.

Without going into too much detail, what distinguishes this particular program is that it’s about enjoying the process—kind of like kayaking. So you bring no music, focus on form, don’t push too hard, and focus on the joy in the moment.

And, running now in Spring, I find myself noticing…

… the incessant chirping of birds as they go into their courtship mode. (Pigeons are particularly entertaining; the male puffs up his glistening purple neck, looking for all the world like an overfed businessman bulging out of his too-tight collar, and struts after an indifferent-seeming female.)

… the rainbow sprays of flowers in the trees, and covering the ground

Spring petals

… the fuzzy growth of new green leaves

Fresh green

… the charm of a puppy on a leash, dancing excitedly around its fashionably-dressed owner.

And as I started up one of the gentler hills in Central Park this morning, I felt the cold rush of air on my cheeks, still hot and puffy from sleep.

And I thought to myself, “I love this. I love being out here in the cool morning air. I love how fresh everything smells. I love… Spring!”

25 responses to “I Used to Hate Spring…

  1. Brilliant post & photos~

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  2. That is very interesting and a different look at life. Here in South India, there is hardly any winter so there is not much of a difference when spring starts. There are more flowers but the weather becomes hotter and hooter. We all wait for the rains which usually start in June:)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      I used to live in central Florida–not quite as warm and humid as South India, but the transitions were definitely milder. Do leaves from the trees come down in the spring there? In Florida they did… we couldn’t figure out why, until we realized they don’t fall in the Fall, but hang on until they’re pushed off by the new growth in the spring…

      Liked by 3 people

  3. So right about two-faced April, particularly cruel when preceded by a sublime March. The anguish may end tomorrow. We expect to rejoin the river after laying up nearly two weeks, if a better April arrives, more like the WS take —

    From you have I been absent in the spring,
    When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
    Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
    That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.

    Eliot as “heavy Saturn?” — fits sure enough, but it’s hard to imagine him laughing & leaping at anything….we’ll take up the slack.

    PS — not to forget the quadricentennial less than two weeks away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Michael,

      Of course! We can always count on you for our daily dose of poetry! And yes, hard to imagine Eliot leaping and laughing…

      Which quadricentennial?

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  4. …sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child,
    [who] warble[d] his native wood-notes wild.
    DOD 4/23/1616

    LOL — I remember a professor remarking, “Few poets were more intentional.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post both of you. Love the photos and commentary. :)

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  6. We in New England do not have a problem with spring because we don’t have spring. We have winter, one warm afternoon long enough to buy a bathing suit. The next day, 90 degrees and the trees are fully leafed.

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  7. love the great writing and pix!

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  8. Robert Browning’s Home Thoughts from Abroad says it for me Johna; lifts me nicely out of the doldrums.

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  9. Early spring really does mess with you, warm/hot one day and then miserable cold rain the entire next week, etc. I totally understand why you used to hate it. I think between spring and fall as my top two, spring still wins out as my favorite season. It takes its time, but it’s so nice to watch the world come back to life after winter. I love those mugs! What beautiful artwork of the seasons!

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    • I, for one, agree with you about spring. Fall is beautiful, but everything is going in the wrong direction: it will only get worse…

      But the pluses and minuses of fall and spring are very cunningly, and asymmetrically, balanced. Fall is still warm—but the days are already short. Spring has longer, and lengthening, days—but it can still be very cold. You take your pick…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Very interesting, Johna…spring’s always been my favorite season, and I’m very aware of the changeability of the equinox seasons. But I hadn’t about the way autumn benefits from lingering summer warmth, and as a kayaker, you really made a good case for a reason autumn could be “better” than spring. For me, it’s always been about the promise of what’s coming, so autumn loses and spring gains. Great post! Glad you’re enjoying all those delicious details on your runs. Beautiful cherry tree!

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    • We are now comfortably into spring, and this past winter, and a number of others recently, seem to have been rather attenuated… Maybe in a few years fall will just pass immediately over to spring, and winter will be just a distant memory :-)

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  11. Wonderful. Love your writing.
    I used to hate spring, too, and have recently converted. I totally get where you’re coming from. Summer will always be the best, though. :D

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