Winter and summer are constant, eternal. Well, not really. No matter how much snow is on the ground, a February day is very different from a December day, in terms of light, remaining firewood, and expectations. This is also true for June vs. August; nothing is the same, from lupine to goldenrod, peas to tomatoes, beginnings to endings. Yet when we think of “winter” and “summer,” a set of static, overarching themes come to mind. The winter of our discontent, the summer of love. Skiing, sledding, shoveling; swimming, gardening, drinking gin and tonics. All these and a million different images represent one of two extremes that we tend to think each make up half of the year.
As much as I love the idyllic permanence of winter and summer, my favorite seasons are instead fall and spring, the dynamic in-between times. Fall is when the world is dying but not dead, and the constant pull away from the plenitude of summer makes us cling to life with desperation.
Spring also mingles life and death, in reverse order. Hard to say it better than T. S. Eliot: April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory with desire. Everything is always changing in the spring. Yesterday it was sunny, in the 60s; today it’s spitting snow and there’s a fire in the wood stove. Signs of spring abound despite the snow-covered ground– on Wednesday I saw turkey vultures circling, and today I woke up to the strange metallic whirr of red-winged blackbirds. Downtown there’s an open channel on the Israel River, and one day soon all of the ice will crack in a violent burst of energy, and water will flow with frightening, unstoppable force, smashing riverbanks and flooding fields.
Tomorrow is Easter, a day I associate with daffodils, mud puddles, and rebirth. It’s a spring festival that comes around the same time every year, but that for me represents change, flux, possibility– a vital burst of life out of the dull, sameness of wintry death. The fertile rabbit brings brightly colored eggs; the seed catalog on the table foreshadows the abundance of summer; the stone is rolled away, and out of the darkness flows a raging torrent of life that will drown us or lift us up for another year.