When Spring Was More Than March Madness

The Rain God SmallI was born in 1949, the final child for a blue collar family. In the late fall, after the senses had been set ablaze by the vivid red, gold, orange, and yellow leaves festooning the trees, the world turned drab. Dead leaves, grass, vines, and field crops browned as their vitality slipped away. Golf courses had not yet resorted to permanently green grass and still had few players. Countering the sadness implicit in the ubiquitous death of enveloping vegetation, men went afield, gun in hand, to quicken the pulse in pursuit of prey. Women indwelled at the homes to which winter would mostly banish their families.


The harvest festivals and Halloween passed in the waning light. Though the solstice, marked by displays of light, celebrated the now waxing day, it also marked the beginning of winter. The days did get longer but the dropping temperature drove the people indoors and they did not really notice. There was no such thing as sportswear so people stayed home more and more where heating the house became more and more of a challenge. The only people who went out when they were not working were hunters. No one went skiing or visited relatives. They stayed home, were quieter than usual, and waited for winter to end. Their worlds and their spirits were diminished as they longed for Spring.


Spring came slowly. Redbuds, deep in the forest, bloomed and were brilliant beacons against the dark brown woods. Crocus and jonquils erupted from the dirt and birds began to pair. A bright, balmy day manifest from the somber gloom. Men stayed on the front porch to smoke, wearing only a long-sleeved shirt. Crappie moved into the shallows. Trees became textured with swollen buds. Shagbark hickories unfurled their tiny leaves. A sky so blue that it hurt your eyes suddenly appeared and the world burst open. Fresh, green grass emerged from massive brown patches; the air freshened; buttercups and forsythia splashed their happy yellows everywhere and the palette powerhouses—dogwoods and azaleas—prepared their rich hues for coming display.


Life had come back into the vegetative world and it came back into the people as well. Once again their worlds had a cloistered inside and an expansive, exciting outside. People began visiting their friends and family. They began to walk and linger outside, to fish and to plan a picnic. They cleaned off the grills of their barbeque pits. They prepared baseball diamonds. They were happier. They were noisier, they were busier. Their spirits had been revived because once again they could fully embrace the greening natural world.


No one sat at home and filled out brackets. Spring had enlivened their hearts and they all were champions but these heroes quested not for glory. They wildly ranged into nature seeking the satisfaction of being human before the cyclical vibrancy of the world died again. They knew one day the swinging scythe would mow them down.


Those times are gone forever. Spring, except in conference context, has no consequence. Now, the world never dies for those who inhabit it because, for them, it never truly lives.

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