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Domestic Bliss

Spring fling


There is something perverse about springtime in Colorado. Just as the forsythia begins to blossom and the narcissus raises its yellow head, as pink and purple hyacinth releases its sweet scent, a foot of snow comes down to clobber them all.

Following the spring blizzard, it's still spring but all signs of new life are obliterated. The trees are still bare, the winter lawns patched with brown, barely greening.

Spring fever hits, only to be followed by a weekend of winter cocooning as the snow blows sideways against the window screens.

The week before the April 10 blizzard, sunbathers began to appear on rooftops and in front yards near the Colorado College campus. Bare midriffs were unveiled, socks disappeared and painted toes peaked out from Birkenstocks. Then it was back to boots and jackets, scarves and hats, if only for a day or two.

The Colorado spring promises little and delivers little, storing all its energy for the sudden advent of summer. Its hesitancy and its fickleness frustrate me in a way that's hard to explain but has much to do with having grown up with springs that were as predictable as rain.

Spring in Tennessee was unabashedly lush. In the deciduous forests, a cloak of green nearly the color of limes covered everything -- the soft, mossy forest floor, the tender branches of the trees. Purple redbuds, pink and white dogwoods, apples, pears, peaches and quince bloomed in profusion, the air thick with pollen, buzzing with life.

In my senior year of high school I was in love with life, with a boy, with love itself in that final eventful spring of easy, calibrated life. My friends and I roller-skated through the streets and through the hallways of White Station High School. We rode through the streets of Memphis in a Volkswagen bug, its cloth top pulled back and flapping in the breeze. We picked magnolia blossoms as big as dinner plates and inhaled their deliriously thick and potent perfume.

I remember the beauty and only a bit of the anguish of knowing that high school would end, I'd break up with my boyfriend and life would never be the same.

A group of us began a ritual of sunrise breakfasts in the fields just south of our suburban neighborhood that senior-year spring. Morning dew licked our legs and misted our faces as we marched through the tall grass to a clearing beneath a stand of tall cottonwoods and willows. The sky was purple, then pink.

To get to the place where we liked to gather, we had to cross a log bridge over a rushing creek. One slick overcast morning, the bottoms of my black Converse high-top sneakers slipped against the slimy log and I flew backward into the creekbed. Lungs smashed, I lay silent, unable to speak, move or breathe, as my friends rushed down to help me. They pulled me up from the sucking mud and tended me until my breath returned, then wrapped me in blankets brought to spread on the damp ground. I was mortified and humiliated, terrified by that temporary absence of breath.

Less than an hour later, the warm spring sun heated our beloved field, and I shed my blankets and lay in the grass, the mud baking into the cracks of my skin. I went home and showered and changed clothes, then went to school.

During the spring, we could barely stay inside, the tall windows of our school opened and leaking birdsong. At lunch, we jumped in someone's car and drove to the Mississippi River, to the grassy banks leading down to the muddy water. We looked for treasure, visited a towboat operator, lay in the grass, tiny clouds of insects floating like halos around our faces. We were blinded by beauty, by the noonday sun, by the promise of our lives.

Can weather, the atmosphere, the hazy sweetness of spring inspire that kind of ecstasy and hope? Absolutely. In Colorado, we get it in fits and starts. A glorious day promising summer draws us out, then a blustery whiteout drives us in. We take our joy in doses, whenever we can get it.

I have a friend in New Mexico who talks about weather as if it is a lover, a friend. When we first met and he swooned over weather, declaring his love for it, I didn't know what he meant. I thought you could love a particular kind of weather, but not the mere existence of weather. I finally realized he was talking about the unpredictability of the weather in the Rocky Mountain West. He worshiped those sudden changes, the sky turning dark and pouring forth. On April 10, during the blizzard, I stuck my face out the back door into the blinding snow and thought of my friend with a smile.

Now this is weather, he would say. This is spring.


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