Spring: A Lifetime of First Dates
I don’t think I’m alone when I say summer is my favorite time of year. But let’s face it, the season as a whole is a rather monotonous affair, at least in climatic terms. It’s a solid stretch of consistently perfect days that all but disappear behind the noise and excitement of in-the-moment experience. Summer is the perfect time for outdoor adventure, but it’s often taken for granted as soon as it begins, and you forget it’s even there until it’s not.
Spring, on the other hand, is a sexy, flashy time of year. It teases. It whets. It leaves you begging for more. If summer is the season to which you wed the soul, spring is that same person during the dating phase, a time that makes the heart do backflips when nobody’s looking. The yearly courtship is repeated but not repetitive. Every spring I fall victim to the same feelings of discovery, desire, and hopeful anticipation, and every year it all feels just as fresh as it did five, ten, or even twenty years ago.
The first spark of my own annual romance with summer begins in the night sky, when I catch a fleeting glimpse of spring from afar, months before the equinox. I’ll venture out my front door one frigid morning, just before sunrise, and I’ll notice a shimmering blue star peeking over the northeast horizon. It’s Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra (as well as the brightest in the summer sky), and it’s returning to the heavens for the first time in months. The sight always gives me pause. I feel a tingle in my spine, I whisper to myself spring is coming, and I point the sight out to my Australian cattle dog, whose name is, by no coincidence, Vega.
It’s a fleeting encounter, but it leaves me smitten. I start watching for spring everywhere I go, and I’m thrilled every time I catch sight of her at work, preparing the Earth for its yearly transformation. The changes are subtle at first. The snowpack on the streets begins to shrink and dwindle. The bone-chillingly cold days become fewer and far between, though by no means are they warm. There’s always a day or two every February when I notice some daily activity that had been taking place in the dark is now happening in the light of day—or vice versa. Then daylight savings comes along with a megaphone to make things a bit more obvious.
As spring tiptoes nearer, the flirtations are bolder and more prominent. A lone crocus or daffodil pushes its way up through the still-frozen dirt, hungry for sunlight. Buds gather and swell on the trees, looking as if they’ll burst on the branch at any second. The first rain of the year leads to the second, and then the third, until one day I realize the whole world has greenshifted ever so slightly, as if I were living in some Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. Lawns erupt back to life, going from a brown, flat, sodden mess to a tousled sea of grass in the course of a few scant weeks. It doesn’t take long for Vega to discover the tallest tufts, where she lingers to gently munch the tender tips of the longest blades.
By the time spring is in full swing, I’m alongside her every single day. The landscape has moved from monochrome to a blinding symphony of color. Birdsong fills the air, from the sharp warble of a hundred robins to the soft and baleful coo of a lone mourning dove outside the bedroom window. Throughout the neighborhood, garage doors are flung wide open, neighbors mingle and laugh in the cool breeze, and distant squeals and shouts drift down the street from unseen children at play. The senses overload, the days bleed together, and spring becomes so present, so everywhere, I don’t bother looking for her anymore. There’s no need.
And then one morning I wake up in a sleeping bag with the sunshine on my face and my dog lying across my ankles. It’s summertime. When did this happen? I remember the details leading up to this moment: planning the camping trip, calling on a friend to come along, loading the 4Runner while Vega sat patiently on the tailgate and waited. But in the rush of the last few weeks, I somehow stopped keeping track of the season. Blinded by wonder, I staggered too close and fell in and got whisked away with the current. I never even noticed. I’d been ready all along.
Lying in my tent, I bask a while longer in this epiphany—but not for too long. There’s coffee that needs brewing, potatoes to peel, and Vega has probably been awake a full hour, ready for me to unzip the door of the tent so she can begin her own long-awaited summer. So I get up, I get on with that first day, and I hardly give summer another thought until it’s months later, when I suddenly realize it’s over.