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Spring, Spring!

For someone who grew up with seasons, spring is a welcome change from the harrowing winter.

By F+

Illustration by Katie Wittenberg.

Spring is approaching, probably, hopefully. But as a Chicagoan, I do not say that with confidence, because I know that spring here is a fleeting and unpredictable thing. The other day while I was on the Red Line, I saw an ad that said something about spring being a season that lasts two weeks. That’s truly how it is. The temperature rocks back and forth between freezing and balmy every other day — sometimes sticking in the bitterly cold weather, but never staying warm. Then finally, just when death sounds like it might be more fun than another week or even day of winter, it doesn’t switch back to cold. It’s finally spring. But you never know exactly when this will happen. It changes every year.

Walking around The Loop, I noticed some plants beginning to sprout, probably tulips. Plants are a sign of spring, especially flowering plants. They’re arguably the best part of the season. But this was in February. The days that followed froze the plants. Now it is March. The plants seem to be coming back in earnest, but I’m not ready to believe spring is here. According to the several weather sites I have checked, it should be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the rest of the month. Do I trust that? No. Do I want to believe it? Yes.  

I told my friend that it was supposed to be above freezing for the rest of the month, and they replied, “Isn’t it supposed to snow? Wasn’t it supposed to snow today?” It did snow. It is actually snowing as I write, but it didn’t stick, and it’s supposed to be in the 40s again tomorrow.

As a kid, I would know it was officially spring when I saw robins hopping around with their red chests, hunting for worms. I have not seen a robin yet this year. To be fair, they don’t necessarily flock to the Loop. Without that signifier of spring I have looked to my calendar that says the first day of spring is March 20. If spring is on schedule, which is unlikely, all of Chicago is in for a treat — waking up to sunshine streaming in through the window and birds chirping. I don’t remember what trees look like with leaves on them. Every March or April, when I start to see buds on trees, I have the purest and strongest wave of joy. It punches every negative and cold winter-time feeling I have ever had right out of my chest. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see spring finally coming, and I am delighted.

Of course, there are the less glamorous aspects of the spring season. It rains for eons. The resulting mud is only fun for children and people who don’t have to clean up their own messes. It turns out, it’s vital to check the weather before heading out. Even when it isn’t winter, the temperature can surprise you with chilliness. It’s not uncommon to basically freeze when caught outside without a jacket after losing the tolerance to the cold that builds up over the winter. But even these things are tolerable after months of ice and snow.

While watching “Planet Earth,” I learned that there are places in the world that do not have seasons. Apparently, the closer a place is to the equator, the less change they have in seasons. So places like Chicago have more drastic changes in season than places like Florida, or even more notably, anywhere that is actually on the equator. I cannot imagine what that is like. I have questions for people who live without seasons. What’s it like to not have to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder every winter? How would the intensity of your happiness when you see a flower compare to mine? What’s it like to have stable and consistent weather?

Despite the fickleness and drawbacks of spring, I love it. It’s more than just a season. It’s a symbol of rebirth and life. It is absolutely filled with a welcome flood of greenery and flowers to be picked. There are opportunities for outdoor adventures. It’s almost a guarantee that upon venturing outside, there will be a new dog to meet and pet. It very well may be the only reason my heart continues to beat in the depths of the winter. Spring is a small sort of heaven after the struggles of sub-zero weather. It’s also strange, and I hate it when I wear too many or too few layers. When it isn’t yet in full swing, it’s hard to believe spring is actually a season that’s happening. But if it doesn’t come in the next couple of days, I might actually wither up and die.

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