The iconography of spring is pretty well-known. Early-blooming flowers clustered around the trunks of trees newly decked out in fresh bright green leaves that were buds only a week ago. Eggs the color of a cloudless sky waiting in nests built by perfectionist birds singing out their parenting anxiety. Baby rabbits, baby squirrels, baby deer, every type of baby animal you can think of (did you know that baby squirrels are actually called kittens?) frolicking on verdant fresh grass. Light breezes. Long walks while wearing short-sleeves shirts in appropriate seasonal colors. The return of a sun that is actually warm.
All of this seems familiar, right? It’s the way spring looks in books and movies, it’s the way spring sounds in poetry and songs. We know that autumn’s here when there are red leaves on the trees, we know that spring is sunny walks wearing a sweater. Oh sure, there’s the adage about “April showers,” so the odd little rain here and there is to be expected, but that’s not enough to dampen the mood.
I know that’s what spring means to some people, but here in Western New York, spring just doesn’t look like that.
When spring officially arrives this year on March 20, I’ll bet you donuts to dollars there will still be some snow on the ground. Grumpy squirrels will be digging up the last of their buried winter nuts while the trees spread against the sky with red buds on their branches that are in no rush to sprout into leaves.
It makes me laugh when I see ads on tv that indicate that egg hunts for kids could be an outside affair. If my parents had depended on that as a tradition, there would have definitely been years we would have all gotten an empty basket and a shovel before heading out to find eggs hidden by parents and Mother Nature’s fluffy white snow.
There are years, of course, where this doesn’t happen. There are years where spring finds Rochester warm and sunny with only some soggy ground. Sometimes, all of spring passes like this, with riots of purple and golden crocuses popping out of the ground, pushing bright heads past the last remnant of fall’s leaves that we didn’t get to rake before that first snow hit last year. This sort of sense of false security we enjoy somehow leaves us unprepared for that random early May snowstorm we might get clobbered with when we’re not looking.
Nonetheless, I have to say that when we get a break from looming spring rainclouds, it’s actually not hard to look past the spongy and flattened grass that’s still waiting to recover, past the spindly brown bare branches not ready to bud yet to a sky that is absolutely the very bluest I have ever seen in spring, no matter what city (or country) I’ve visited during those early months. March may not be picturesque here, but it’s truly transitional. We can’t forget that winter was intense—the little remnant piles of snow linger, the winds are wild—but we get brilliant hints of the equally vivid summer that’s coming up before we know it. Rochester weather isn’t mild, and honestly, I think we feel unfulfilled if we don’t experience a literal 50-degree temperature shift in a 24-hour period a few days a year. But we take every season for what it is, without it just being a pastel version of the one before or after it. Spring would never be mistaken for summer, and while it means we have to postpone our picnics, we get to watch a gradual and theatrical unfolding of the year.