Spring is a good time for new things, right? Spring is a thematically appropriate time to introduce changes into one’s life, and then write about them.
The life I lead here on Crowded Little Street, Southwest Baltimore, is very unlike the life I’ve had anywhere else, and by that I mean, my life is very normal. Astonishingly so. It’s the kind of normal I didn’t think actually existed outside of sitcoms. My roommates and I hang out and play video games. We have Burrito Night. I can walk to the grocery store and the coffee shop. I’ve had a recent uptick in my freelance work, so lately I haven’t had the crushing despair of hanging around an empty house, unable to enjoy the solitude because you’re not allowed to enjoy days off when you’re an unemployed bum. Oh, and I have a cat! If you follow my Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr, you know this already, but here’s a picture anyway.
Not pictured: the photographer writhing with glee, because the cat and MouseBear are friends, and she ACTUALLY PULLED HIM OVER SO THEY COULD BE CLOSER AND SNUGGLE, GOD SHE’S SO CUTE I’M GONNA DIE
So I have a house, human beings, a cat, and (brief, temporary) employment. The support group I started in December is getting more members every week. I love the novel I’m writing. My essay about why Ophelia is the most important character in western literature was published on The Toast not long ago! And I just got my contributor’s copies for Companion Piece!
That’s all it takes to make me quite content, apparently. Compared to where I was a year ago, it’s pretty much paradise.
So naturally, in the face of all this goodness, the advent of sunshine and spring weather is making me nostalgic for my childhood. Which, as long time readers of this blog will know, was, occasionally, a barren wilderness full of thorns and locusts, etc.
But not always! And the miserable bits aren’t what this blog post is about. This blog post is about the weather right now and how excited it gets me. To clarify, since you might be having different weather than me, I’m referring to this peculiar late-March blend of sunshine and cold-but-not-COLD temperatures, with warm patches that you walk into unexpectedly, until the wind picks back up and you realize that the best jackets are the kind you can tie around your waist, because sometimes you want to take them off, but then you need to put them back on again really quickly.
To properly explain my feelings about the weather I have to point out first that I was born in south Florida, where the fruit never stops growing (nothing can stop it, it is verdant and fecund 365 days a year and you will die with the sweet stench of rotting citrus in your nostrils). I lived there until I was nearly 7. Then, suddenly, we moved to North Carolina in October of 1988, and I was immediately plunged into a world of autumnal colors, and massive piles of reddish-brown pine needles (leaf piles are for Yankees), and COATS. I had to wear a coat outside on the playground. Seven-year-old Brittany rebelled against coats in the strongest possible terms. I played hard and ran around a lot. Coats are hot, they slow you down. I dumped my coat whenever I could get away with it that autumn, tossing it on the picnic tables, hanging it from tree branches. Then in January I came down with bronchitis and missed a week of school. When I recovered, all the teachers had instructions to make sure my fabric prison stayed on my body and zipped up to my neck. (I was still wearing a knee-length skirt in accordance with the dress code for girls, of course. I think God was supposed to keep my legs from getting cold, or something.)
Seven-year-olds who have lived in Florida their whole lives don’t appreciate sunshine. I mean, obviously they don’t. Sunshine is like oxygen in that part of the world. But imagine taking a kid out of the kind of environment where she can run around in her bathing suit in the rain in December, exposing her to cold weather for five months, and then…springtime. My first springtime. We go out on the playground, and it’s cold in the shade, but warm on the ball field where there are no trees. I strip off my jacket and run laps around the field while screaming (I always scream when I run) and then I stop to rest. There’s a cold breeze, and suddenly the jacket seems like a good idea again. But the sun, warmth, freedom from bulky coats, it’s attainable now. I’m chasing it all over the playground. Sunshine feels like freedom and tastes like cilantro (that part might just be me.)
When you’re out on the playground for half an hour in the morning, and then for another couple of hours during your after-school program, the weather has a big effect on your life. Certainly a much bigger effect than it’s ever had on my life since then (barring that one time Hurricane Fran knocked the power out in Raleigh for 9 days.) I spent a LOT of time outdoors when I was a kid, and I was almost always happy there. People left me alone. Good weather meant freedom from all the things I wanted to be free of, coats included. So that’s what I think of when the weather is like this.
Actually, there’s one other thing that March weather makes me think of: a trip I took to Wilmington beach with my cousin in March of 2008. I was coming out of a long depression, and reading a lot of Shakespeare in an effort to try and sell the world to myself a little harder. I remember walking along the ocean’s edge, sun beating down on my face even as my teeth chattered in the wind, and reading from my little blue cloth-bound copy of The Winter’s Tale: “Oh, she’s warm! If this be magic, let it be an art as lawful as eating.” I had the sort of religious education that disposes a person to turn books into mirrors; when I’m reading, every metaphor is about me on some level. Deep down I think I’m really Leontes, but I had also more or less been a statue for years. Then, as now, the beginning of spring made me want to seek, not necessarily a better life, but more of it. More life, as Prior Walter says.
So happy spring to you, happy whatever holidays you celebrate to commemorate the season. I will be watching Slings & Arrows (there’s a whole season about King Lear and rebirth) and eating Cadbury cream eggs. I hope that the sun can be seen from wherever you are reading this, and that the voice of the turtle will soon be heard in your land.
Her name is Philomena, but she prefers to be called Mina.