Spring, Don't Be a Stranger

By Jamie Stiehm

March 21, 2014 5 min read

WASHINGTON — Spring sing hallelujah. Let us now praise the Chinook wind of spring, the American Indian name. And look at the daffodils dance. Well, we deserve to savor the moment.

The vernal equinox, the first day of spring, lands today. We pray it will stay a while after the bitter winter siege that just kept coming. It shut down the Company — i.e., the federal government — many times.

Often the city closed down before the first snowflake fell. And then in the night, the snow started, just like the weather report said it would. The wide avenues where I live, by the National Cathedral, turn silent and white. In a blizzard, the towers are silhouetted in the sky, like a blurry Monet painting outside the window.

The rare sight of the Potomac River frozen over gave the marble memorials to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln a new stark grace. Sadly for President Obama, winter is an apt metaphor for his second term, which began the winter of 2013. He needs to force the spring, a phrase plucked from President Clinton. Facing defiant adversity at home and abroad, he can still prove a man for all political seasons. We hope.

Spring's arrival is worthy of a White House proclamation, don't you think? Maybe even a medal for the hardy people of Minnesota, Chicago and the whole Midwest. New Englanders are also excellent endurers with lots of trusty L.L. Bean winter wear.

Everyone else on the East Coast, from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore down to Washington, was talking up a storm about spring as we trudged through the snow, sleet, ice and rain. What else is there to talk about? It's the one bipartisan thing, the issue that all agree on: This winter was — past tense! — a bear. The 1 percent and the rest of us are all under the same soon-to-be-shining sun.

In Washington, we're not as well-conditioned to hardship as our northern neighbors. Call us weary of the coldest winter anyone can remember cutting through layers into the only skin we've got. Nobody is more ready for spring's kiss than I am. Dreaming of a brand new way.

Before transplanting from California, I didn't understand all the fuss about spring as the season of hope, renewal and promise. Life there seemed so much like one long June or July. Tennis was my game. The beach was a bicycle ride away. Malibu was up the Pacific Coast Highway, with looming Point Dume defining the ocean's curve.

Now, with this winter on my brow, I'm onboard with lyrical lines in poetry about spring. They sing to me, and they go way back. English poet George Herbert, for example, lived a short life, but long enough to praise, "Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses," 500 years ago.

Brooks babble, blossoms abound and birds return to serenade you: "Birds warble sweet in the springtime," wrote American bard James A. Bland, in an 1875 poem on "Old Virginny." The world comes out to play, the poets tell us, not without a streak of madness. Anything can happen in spring.

Modern poet e.e. cummings conjured "Just-spring" — a state when the world is rinsed fresh and "mud-luscious." In 1350, a medieval English bard left these lines behind: "Dayeseyes in the dales/Notes swete of nightegales." Daisies and nightingales, yes, they can't spring up soon enough. As the centuries pass, over war and peace, some things run deep in the human spirit. It's almost like these writers are talking to each other, expressing gratitude.

"The Long Winter," by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a "Little House" book, tells of a time her pioneer family nearly perished from cold and hunger. This is how it ends: "The Chinook, the wind of spring, was blowing. ... The sun was shining warm, the winds were soft, and the green grass growing." Prairie wildflowers stood ready to run riot.

Yes, that's what we're talking about. The airy cherry blossoms here will peak in April, they say.

But they also say snow is coming round again — so early in the spring. Has anyone seen the Chinook?

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com

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