Sunday, April 7, 2013
Oh Good Grief, It's Spring Charlie Brown
“Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.” ~Linus Van Pelt in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
If you take the word “Christmas” out of that quote and replace it with “spring”, then Linus could have been talking about me. The snow is melting, the sun is warmer feeling, and yet I am in the midst of my annual anxieties about spring.
My spring uncertainties are not the same as those I usually get around the holidays. I almost wish they were. At that time of year, I get caught up in more specific concerns: finding the right Christmas presents, finding the money to afford aforementioned presents, attending parties without making a fool of myself, making time for everyone and everything, and the like. No, the anxieties that creep into my head around springtime are lower-level and less-pressing, but no less stressful.
Some of them are not highly defined. When it is 35 degrees, windy, and ice pellets are falling from the sky in April, I admit that at some deep level I begin to doubt that winter is really over. Given the five months of snow and cold that have just dragged past at the speed of continental drift, one can’t blame one’s psyche for not fully buying into the idea that it really is over. After all, there was 1816, the “Year Without a Summer”. Temperatures were well below normal that year all around the world due to a volcanic eruption in Indonesia causing unheard-of weather and crop failures. There was snow in Albany, New York and Dennysville, Maine on June 6 of 1816. Even within my lifetime, in 1990, we had more than six inches of snow fall on May 23 here in northern Maine. Winter in Maine can be like that shark in the Jaws films. Just when you think it’s safe, the damn thing comes back to bite you.
The general appearance of the outside in early spring is just a mess, which adds to the anxiety. We have to pile the snow high here after storms, so while most of it has indeed melted, there are still huge dirty snowbanks in nearly every yard, slowly turning to water. Even in a good year, some of the larger snowbanks can survive into May or early June in this part of Maine. Trash, sticks, dog droppings and various other surprises lie around on the ground, left behind during the winter and now exposed by the melting snow.
Where there are no snowbanks, everything is brown. The grass and leaves have not dared to sprout yet, so the remains of last year’s dominate the view, dead and mired in the mud that is impossible to avoid. Trees are still bare, and seeds under the ground have only begun to think about getting started. It seems hard to believe that very soon, with some spring rains and warm sun, the green grass and leaves will soon burst forth, and flowers will be blooming. At least, that is the plan.
One of my more specific worries this year includes the fate of my old riding lawnmower, which was literally limping toward the end of the mowing season last fall. It had been giving me trouble all last year, and my only hope at the time was to nurse it along until the end of the season. The old rustbucket threw a belt during the last mow in October, but it made it to the finish line. Now I have to consider my options, none of which are good. I can try to fix it myself, but frankly I am not very good at that kind of thing and will probably make things worse instead of better. I could take it to get serviced, which is the most likely thing I will do, though that can be expensive, and loading a powerless riding mower onto a truck is a heavy job. I suppose I can go without and just use my trusty push mower on the whole thing this year. While the exercise would certainly be good for me, the extra time and work involved would be a real hassle, especially when it gets hot. Sweating ranks right up there with cholera on my list of things to avoid. Or, I could buy a new riding mower. Let me know if you see the money fairy flying near my house, and I’ll flag her down and do just that.
I’m also worried about what I’ll find when I wash my car for the first time this spring. My beloved chariot, as I refer to it, is caked in at least an inch of dirt and mud. It has been showered with gravel and sand from driving on the interstate after storms, and was buried under snow several times this past winter. I am bracing myself for the sight of the new dings and scratches in the paint job that I’ll uncover after that first wash. Cars, like people, can’t stay new-looking forever, but I am going to do all I can to try to keep this car looking as close to how it did when I drove it off the lot two years ago. I've got a bottle of touch-up paint on standby, and got a full kit of car cleaning supplies for Christmas just ready to crack open. That chariot is going to shine, I hope. Right now, it looks like something salvaged from the bottom of the Mississippi River, so it’s got nowhere to go but up.
My warm-weather wardrobe needs a serious update as well, since most of my best clothes from last year are really only suitable for use as rags when cleaning the aforementioned car or for dressing as a homeless person. I've been milking them for a few years now, and they just don’t have another season left in them. That means I need to shop for new clothes, which is easily one of my least favorite things to do. I just don’t know what a guy my age (43, for those of you just joining us) is supposed to wear. I do know what I am comfortable wearing however. The former and the latter don’t always seem to coincide, unfortunately. Plus, it’s getting harder and harder to find Nirvana tour t-shirts these days. When I win the lottery, the first thing I am going to do is hire a professional fashion consultant.
In ancient times, the new year started in the spring, not midwinter like it does for us now. That makes more sense to me, because a lot of what’s nagging at me at this time of year is the result of transitions, the new beginnings that are the hallmark of spring. The old has passed, and the new lies ahead with all the uncertainty that comes with it. All the little concerns I've mentioned here either falls under the heading of fear that the old has not really passed, or that there might be complications with the unknown new.
I know on an intellectual level that of course the hard months of winter are over and the beauty of spring is looming, but it still seems impossible at this point. But it happens every year. There will be robins. There will be crocus. There will be temperatures that allow us to leave our jackets at home. It’s just a matter of hanging on and letting nature take its own time.