"In like a lion; out like a lamb." That's March, or at least it's supposed to be. This year, with great thanks to El Nino, we've had a mild winter in the Chicago area. This Southern girl can't complain. Now, on the last day of March, with the weekend weather forecast mentioning snow and sounding more like a lion than like a lamb, I am more thankful than ever for Spring (and also wondering if Mother Nature is messing with us a little bit).
Growing up in Texas, I never appreciated Spring. Or fall. Or winter, really. The joke is that Texas has four seasons: hot, hot, hot, and really hot. In autumn, the leaves would all drop their leaves in a week's time (if they lost them at all). And Spring was the same: you woke up one morning and everything was green. I understood the concept of Spring, but not really what it meant until I lived north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Winter is long. Really long. And, as much as I love to see the snow in December, by March and April, the magic is pretty much gone. By the time Spring Break rolls around, my house is dangerously close to resembling "The Shining," complete with my two girls dressed alike, holding hands in the hallway. (This sounds like it could be cute in real life. And it is. But it's also usually right before one or both of them go crazy and the scene devolves into a wrestle party on the floor of the bedroom with their big brother coming in for a full-body slam, resulting in everyone in tears.) The point is: we are all on edge, feeling the change in the air. Antsy.
There is a reason why schools have a Spring Break. If the kids act at school the same way they act at my house, the teachers and staff know that they need a change of routine (and hopefully a change of scenery). There's a reason why almost every religion or culture has a holiday around this time. Christians celebrate Easter. My Jewish friends celebrate Purim (and Passover on years when the dates fall earlier than they do this year). In the Pagan/Wiccan/Druid tradition, the Spring Equinox is a major celebration. Hindu people celebrate Holi by sprinkling colored powder and water over each other to mark the triumph of Spring over Winter (and of good over evil). In the Baha'i faith, the beginning of Spring is the beginning of their new year. You get the idea. Human beings across the globe and across the generations have felt what we feel at this time of year. We are tied to each other in this feeling.
During my years in New York and now in the Chicago area, the first signs of Spring still fill me with absolute total giddy joy. My kids can attest that I have been known to dance wildly in our yard when I find the tulips and the daffodils pushing through the frost-covered ground, and I have made it a point to drag everyone I can find over to look at them.
I mean, it's pretty amazing when you think about it. A little bulb lies under the ground for months, seemingly doing nothing. And then something tells it to grow, to stretch itself in both directions: stems upward and roots further down. The roots ground that little bulb, tethering it to the earth, as they search for nourishment in the unknowing dark. And those stems! Those wonderfully hopeful little shoots! They break through the dirt, through the snow and ice, reaching toward the sun, undaunted by the cruel winter around them. They grow strong and straight, not needing any kind of stake to support them. And finally the first blooms cut through the winter landscape like a painter's brush. Pink! Red! Yellow! They burst open with wild, reckless abandon, daring the trees to bud faster, the grass to turn soft and green.
Their arrival signals a change in me every year. I wonder if I'm like a little underground bulb. I'm trying to stretch and grow in writing, in creating, in learning how to be a better mother. I'm trying to ground myself in what will nourish me: my faith, my marriage, my family, my friendships. I wonder if I'm going to get where I'm supposed to be going. Will I bloom as beautifully as a daffodil? Will I be as bold as a tulip? Is my faith as strong as a crocus?
I don't know. But I do know that on days when I feel frustrated or lonely or like I'm not ever going to do anything that matters, I think about those brave little flowers in my yard. I imagine that the little red tulip felt that too, right before it burst through the ground and felt the sun on its face and the wind at its back. I bet that little daffodil had moments of wondering if it would ever find warmth or hear a child's laughter. But it kept its faith. And I keep mine.
Little by little, every day, I grow and stretch. Little by little, I reach for the sun and hold tight to my family. Little by little, I straighten my back and stand up a little taller, ready to take on the wind and the rain.