We've turned the clocks ahead, and our calendars yesterday announced the official change of season. In these parts, though, Spring will not be rushed, and she will not be bullied. She is taking her good old time to get to northeast Ohio, as is her habit.
Like many families with multiple generations who grew up here, ours has plenty of Easter photos of children squinting at cameras from under the hoods of their chunky parkas, baskets of fake grass swinging at their sides. One year, my mother was determined to show off her daughters' matching Easter dresses, so we gathered coatless and shivering on the porch for my father's camera until my sister Leslie wailed, "I think we're going to die."
It's no good letting our hopes soar this early for Spring. Just because we are no longer driving home in the pitch-black of 5:30 doesn't mean we're done catching our coats in car doors and scattering salt on the sidewalk. Still, off they go, these hopes, launched by us, the Volunteer Brigade of Magical Thinkers. We, too, have our habits.
Twice a week, I drive 30 miles from my home in Cleveland to Kent, Ohio, population 30,000-ish, where I teach journalism at Kent State. The first half or so of the trip is fast freeway, but the closer I get to the small town, the slower and narrower the route.
Today was the first full of day of Spring, so of course it began with a snowstorm. By the time I hit the outskirts of Kent — Tree City, we call it — I was gliding under one white, frozen canopy after another. I am a big fan of trees, even when their branches reach out across the sky like frosty fingers poking fun at our illusions. Spring? What Spring?
In the cemetery, the small American flags at veterans' graves had frozen midfurl, as if protesting the inconvenient timing of death. We're always in the middle of something, until we aren't. It's unseemly to pass a cemetery with one's head full of complaints about the weather. Instant clarity.
Morning drives are full of decisions that can set the day's mood. I'd awakened to NPR's news, but I had to decide how I wanted to fill my head once I was behind the wheel. How much more news could I take?
My, how the mind wanders. I thought of two recent New York Times stories about outliers in Ohio. The Times apparently likes to come to my state to find that one person who will make large swaths of the country shake its collective head over what has happened to America.
A few months ago, a Times story attempted to cast a 29-year-old white supremacist in central Ohio as just a guy trying to live a life, just like the rest of us. He is the "Nazi sympathizer next door" who loves "Seinfeld," "sauteing minced garlic with chili flakes" and declaring "the widely accepted estimate that six million Jews died in the Holocaust 'overblown.'" That went over well.
The Times was back recently to showcase Erik Hagerman, a 53-year-old white man who was so shaken by the election of Donald Trump that he is now living alone on a pig farm in southeastern Ohio, boycotting all news. A Blockade, he calls it — for him and anyone who is in touch with him, from family members to the baristas waiting on him at his favorite coffee shop.
Hagerman, we're told, doesn't even read his financial adviser's quarterly updates, because income is not one of his worries. There's your typical Ohioan, says no one who lives here.
These morning drives sure have their way with one's mood.
I recalibrated by tuning in to our NPR-affiliated station in Cleveland. We have 29 such stations in Ohio, a statistic bound to trigger a few coffee-spurts from people who don't live here. Maybe I should have warned you to put your cup down first.
Anyway, I tuned in to WCPN just in time for my friend Mike McIntyre's discussion with Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas — yes, in Ohio! A poet laureate! He's my friend, too. Yowza! — and Cleveland poet George Bilgere. (I know him!)
When Mike asked them to define poetry, Bilgere quoted poet Pablo Neruda: "Poetry is an old woman looking in the mirror."
Let that wash over you for a moment.
The snow has stopped falling, for now, and I'm about to leave campus in broad daylight, at 5:55 p.m. Spring is here, in her own way, and there are poems to be written. There is poetry yet to come.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.