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When Spring Is in the Air

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Friday, March 20, 2009; Page WE23

You inhale deeply, and the scent that fills your lungs says, "Rain."

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You distractedly pull out the ear buds and hear the insistent mating call of a cardinal.

You gaze at the tree branches and realize that while they are still bare, they are no longer barren. Nascent blooms lurk.

Ahhhh. Spring.

After a winter as singularly unsatisfying as this one -- marked by far too much cold and far too little snow -- spring carries with it the hopes of a region.

What we forget every year about spring is that it is more an ideal than anything else. Too many days are too cold; too many days are too rainy. Too soon will come the first sweltering day with its wet dishrag of humidity slapping us, and we'll lament, "We had no spring at all; it went straight from winter to summer."

But for now, on the threshold of spring, all things seem new and possible. What follows are reminiscences about the singular magic of spring from some of The Post's most talented writers. It is meant to be less of a "how-to" guide than a "want-to" guide. That is, may the following essays -- from Wil Haygood's pursuit of a pickup basketball game to Joel Achenbach's discovery of the season's first bluebell -- make you want to breathe in the lightness of the spring air and seek out that which defines your personal season of hope.

-- Tracy Grant

Biking through the U.S. Arboretum

Visiting patches of Virginia bluebells

Awaiting baseball's opening day

Playing pickup basketball

Fishing for shad at Fletcher's Boathouse

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