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2013 Spring Issue 2 (April 19, 2013)

The Myth of Spring

April 23, 2013
By Drew Higgins

Does spring actually exist? This question has crossed my mind often lately, because in truth, the recent weather has nearly succeeded in convincing me that the season is a myth. As I write this, I am also looking at a forecast that predicts three to six inches of snow on April 11th.

I’m from Connecticut, which while not nearly as chilly as Minnesota, is not exactly balmy either—and yet, the only time I’ve experienced snow in April was while playing Oregon Trail in the back of my elementary school classroom (actually quite fitting, since Carleton alums invented that game in the 70s).

Ancient Greeks believed that spring came when the goddess Persephone returned from the underworld to grace us with her bounty of vegetation. Well, apparently Persephone is lost. She has not returned from migration. Or maybe she’s just hanging out somewhere in the Arctic, where the ice flows—unlike those in the arb—seem to be melting at a record pace.

So I wonder: is spring only something William Wordsworth dreamed about while loafing on his couch, penning flowery poetry? Or do daffodils really dance along in “golden hosts” and toss their heads in “sprightly dance”?

Because they don’t in Minnesota, Wordsworth. At least not in April.

We associate spring with words like “new life” and “rejuvenation.” Grass grows. Birds sing. Bunnies lay eggs. But snow in April makes me skeptical whether spring deserves full-fledged season status. Perhaps the spring we like to envision is only a brief minute—a week or two—after winter releases its iron grip and summer roars in. Perhaps the real spring isn’t gloriously green at all, but rather, is full of exactly what we’re experiencing now: rain, mud, dead grass and the occasional snowstorm.

Call me bitter; it’s an apt description. Right now I suspect we’re all a tad resentful at Nature. I won’t attempt to give some comforting wisdom by saying that we’ll appreciate the good weather of spring—that brief, green minute, when it finally arrives—more because of this suffering. Maybe that’s true, but maybe not, and regardless, it’s difficult to conceptualize much else in the midst of snow in April, and so the idea is hardly comforting.

The only thing that is certain, then, is that Nature is uncertain. It seems obvious, but sometimes I forget that just because we can predict a forecast doesn’t mean we can control it.

As I walked through the arb earlier last week, I thought about how ugly the stained, yellow ice looked as it melted into the mud. But the natural world doesn’t seek to be pretty. Our conception of it—of seasons, of spring—is our conception, and has no influence over the thing itself. Nature is not inherently beautiful or ugly. Such thoughts are only the lenses we lay over it, and so just because spring is supposed to be beautiful doesn’t mean it will be.

Thus we are left to wait and be patient with this fickle thing that doesn’t care if snow makes us sad. Nature is beyond our control, which I’d argue however is ultimately why we hate and love it.

Every day each one of us juggles our own moving parts. It’s exhausting, trying to control our lives. To know that this magnificent thing is occurring without you or me—that it’s going about its business, whatever that is—regardless of our desires, is both humbling and wonderful. So who cares if it snow in April? Well, I do, clearly. But I’ll take comfort in the fact that at least I’m not in charge of making it snow, and that’s a relief.

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