Janet Sheridan: Looking for spring
March 17, 2016
Every year, since moving to Craig in 1996, I wait for the spring of Disney movies and picture books: birds swooping, squirrels frolicking, flowers blossoming along my path and colts auditioning new legs.
Instead, as February fades to March, winter refuses to accept defeat, preferring instead to sulk, hide in the mountains and launch sneak attacks against the gentle incursions of spring. We sigh and eat more potato chips.
But the earth rotates whether winter wants it to or not, and we soon notice longer days, warmer temperatures and smaller piles of dirty snow. Blindly optimistic as always, we assume this year the bounties and blessings of springtime in the Rockies will increase at a predictable pace. Surely we'll soon be wrapped in a warm cocoon of steady sunshine, the beginning of an easy slide into summer. "This will be the year," we predict, "when children won't wear jackets to hunt for Easter eggs and we can plant tomatoes before June."
Too often, however, neither the last stand of winter, nor the insistent encroachment of spring wins a decisive victory, and we live in the dull gray limbo of in-between. March stretches long, and April longer, as winter rallies again and again; spring lacks the strength to prevail, and residents don't know what to do with themselves.
Unable to depend on our weather, we grow less spontaneous and talkative as Mother Nature toys with our hopes. Teenagers wear out their sulky expressions, sanitation workers bash cans about, elected officials squabble, patrolling policemen forget to wave, and teachers go home with headaches. Even the happy cashier at the supermarket, who never fails to have an upbeat remark and welcoming smile, seems withdrawn. It's as though our tendency to be happy is held in check by the wishy-washiness of our weather.
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So, we wait and hope. Wondering if we'll ever again experience backyards filled with bursts of laughter, spilled beverages and boisterous children, we gaze through our winter-stained windows as dust devils sweep dirt and old leaves along the streets. We watch the remnants of a blue sky trimmed with lacy clouds disappear and an icy wind blows about, whipping up snow flakes too puny to hide winter's debris. Finding little to cheer us, we turn away and peer disconsolately into our refrigerators, searching for comfort food and finding only sticky jars of condiments and mysterious leftovers.
Sparrows act subdued, horses seem bored, and cows drool distastefully.
Then, one morning, without warning, we walk into a change so tangible we feel it on our skin and taste it with each breath we take. The sun glitters in an iridescent sky. The neighbor's dog stops its incessant barking, clean cars pass with a quiet hum on freshly swept streets, and flowers spread their petals wide, as if, at last, they feel safe enough to do so.
The grass looks intent, the birds find their bustle and the young man passing by who normally refuses eye contact and greetings throws back his hoodie and smiles as he swoops with the grace of an athlete to retrieve a can littering the sidewalk.
Robins unabashedly bathe in public, young girls squeal nonstop two houses down and normally docile dogs, pulling against their leashes, drag their owners behind them. At the supermarket, we greet one another; the strawberries smell similar to our childhoods, and the friendly checker chats and laughs as her hands fly.
Even the mountains seem to smile as they keep careful watch on the wondrous day when spring finally establishes itself in the Yampa Valley.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com.