Sunday is the last day of spring, and I, for one, say "good riddance!" I say it very carefully, of course: Criticizing spring is tantamount to yelling "I hate America" at a John Birch rally.
While the rest of the world is twittering and clucking over the first crocuses peeping through the snow, a feeling of dread comes upon me and sets my soul on edge. Alone, adrift in a sea of meteorological euphoria, I brace myself for spring, the most devastating season of the year.
When you compare spring to the other seasons it comes up short. There is summer, the slowest, wrapped in the utter luxury of warmth and tempo. The sheer abundance of life spreads like a cloak of green on green. Each day is the same, and one's whole existence can revolve around waiting for a tomato to turn from blossom to luscious red masterpiece ready to be picked and eaten.
Autumn you can see coming--even in the middle of summer--and you can prepare for it. In a slow, gentle, sad and beautiful progression it comes to you, and you have time to get used to the idea.
With winter you know what you're going to get. It's stable, predictable, seemingly changeless. It strips the trees bare so you can see them for what they really are. It brings people close together, huddling against the cold and the dark.
But spring--spring leaps out of the thawing earth with a confusion of colors, sounds and smells that can throw you completely off balance. It is schizophrenia personified. The weather, says Mark Twain, "gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty six different kinds of weather inside of twenty-four hours."
Every day the world is different than it was the day before--the changes come fierce and fast. And the people who were together in winter's cold find themselves dispersed to pursue separate interests and chores.
Every spring it's the same. People get their hopes up, and then they're disappointed. Nobody's disappointed about winter--sometimes they're pleasantly surprised. But come spring and they're saying "It's too cold!" "It's too hot!" Of course. That's spring. No wonder the suicide rate climbs as the forsythias burst into gold in the freezing rain.
A lot of the fault lies with the poets and songwriters. "The flowers that bloom in the spring" and all that. Do they ever mention pollen? Or those little ants that march across your kitchen counter just as your mother-in-law arrives for her Spring Visit? How about "In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love?" Give him a few years and you can bet that in the spring his thoughts will turn to Chem-Lawn and shad runs.
"April in Paris" would be more realistic if it dealt with increased air fares and 14 consecutive rainy days spent in a hotel room watching the famous sewers of Paris overflow. And the person who wrote "Springtime in the Rockies" could never have been west of the Mississippi.
The whole situation is complicated further by a short-circuit in the human memory when it comes to the concept of spring. Maybe if we kept a weather log we'd realize that this spring is no more outrageous than the last.
In short, spring is vastly overrated. As Samuel Butler said: " . . . youth is like spring, an over-praised season--delightful if it happened to be a favored one, but in practice very rarely favored and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting east winds than genial breezes."
There are a lot of good reasons for loathing spring. The birds and the bees, for instance. Not the euphemism--I mean the real thing. You wake up for some reason at 4:30. It's dark and quiet. You wait, not for the other shoe, but for the First Bird. You don't have to wait long.
"Chirp," he offers.
"Shhh!" you whisper.
"Chirp," he replies.
"Shut up--you'll wake the others." Too late.
"Chirp-chirp-chirp CHURP!" His friend does something close to Beethoven's Fifth. With the accompaniment of 4,000 others he goes "chirp-chirp-chirp CHURP!" until 6 a.m. when you give up and get out of bed.
And the bees. I always thought they just bumbled around in the flowers, or stung people. They are eating my house! Carpenter bees; they sound like rats. All night long "chomp chomp chomp." Between the chomp-chomp's and the chirp-chirps, you can kiss sleep goodbye until next winter. No wonder bears hibernate. They're just catching up.
With spring comes the worst media-induced scourge of all time, B.S.A.: Bathing Suit Anxiety. Do you think--in autumn--about your image in a bathing suit? Of course not; you've accepted yourself for what you are. Do you think of it in the winter? No, you've forgotten what cellulite looks like beside the pounding surf. But as you watch that first robin stuffing worm souffle' into his fat little cheeks, the word "Jantzen" goes off like an alarm in your head.
But most horrible of all is the prospect of Spring Cleaning: that font of self-deprecation and self-righteousness.
If I measure my health, as Thoreau says we should, by "sympathy with morning and Spring," I'm a two-time loser. Morning I can do nothing about, but spring--thank God--is almost over for this year. And I say farewell and good riddance.