Photo Essay: The Hope and Joy of Spring

For most of my life, I have been a four-seasons person.  I grew up in Indiana, where at times we could experience all four seasons in the course of a day, but overall, each season had its defined period and winters were long and potentially harsh. The blizzard of ’77 had snow up to the house roof.  The ice storm of ´90 had power off for nearly a week (so we left for Florida early).

I did my undergrad in Chicago, where the lake effect snows and winds were unquestionably brutal.  One of the worst experiences, at -85 deg F windchill, I couldn’t ride my bike to Tech (at the opposite end of campus) because it was so cold the chain wouldn’t move.  After making the painful walk where I had to periodically unfreeze my eyelashes from each other so that I could see, I found a note on the lecture hall door that my elderly magnetic fields professor had cancelled class due to weather.  Grrr!  

Spring Break was a sacred event, whether it was through childhood or in college.  That journey south, usually to Florida, gave a reminder that winter would (hopefully) soon be over and that spring was coming.  It helped with our SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it gave us a taste of the warmth and light that was soon coming.

With each mile southbound, more green buds or grass would appear, flowers would start blooming, and hope and joy would be bursting inside with the coming warmth of spring and summer.

My two years of graduate school in the Bay Area of California introduced me to a two season climate, rainy and dry.  Some days, I would show up to class in shorts while my classmate from San Diego would have a thick down parka.  While I loved the warm, dry season, I missed the winter and would escape at times to Tahoe for the sight of snow.  I never really adjusted to the rhythm of seasons there, and longed for the four seasons of my youth.

Then I moved to Sweden, where the winter is long and especially dark.  Much has been written about Scandinavian coziness, whether it is called “hygge” by the Danes, or “mys” by the Swedes.  It’s essential to survival in these extreme Northern climates, and I came to love evenings by the fire (or candlelight), a good glass of red, and a book.  But there is only so much winter anyone can take…

Spring is a time of tremendous joy in Sweden.  Coming off of the winter solstice, each day is noticeably longer.  The dark and dreary November is past for another year, and the magical summer is coming.  

On the rare sunny (but cold) days, Swedes are outside at cafes and restaurants, their faces turned to the sun like sunflowers, absorbing that tiny bit of warmth.  In the beginning, I laughed at it. With time, I was part of it, so desperate to capture the warming rays of the elusive sun.

After moving to the Carolinas, I feel rather guilty complaining about winter, although the winter here is more remarkable than I had expected.  At least, I should have packed my LL Bean flannel sheets when we moved here, as there are days when I teach and Gothenburg Sweden has a warmer day than we do here in Columbia, South Carolina.  I hadn’t expected that for almost 24 degrees of latitude difference.

Over the past weeks, I have been heartbroken with the end of peace in Europe, and consumed with worry and concern for Ukrainian people and their country.  But I am also trying to keep my spirits up, which is becoming easier each day now as the signs of spring are coming.

Birds are singing their tunes outside my window.  The flowers are blooming in my garden.  There is an ever increasing lightness when my alarm goes off in the morning.

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through, I hope that some small signs of spring are coming for you, and will bring you joy and hope.

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