According to the calendar springtime arrived two weeks ago. But for those of us watching the temperature climb barely about freezing, the days of sunshine chilled by the last blasts of March wind, we’re still waiting for the springtime season begin in earnest. Nevertheless, as I gaze out the windows to the trees nearby, there are some hopeful signs of “almost spring” in the emerging buds on their branches, and the snow has disappeared from the parks and gardens. In mid-March, even though we still donned winter coats to go outside, we were cheered by the emergence of snow flowers (Galanthus) poking their heads through the lawn of a friend’s house–a hopeful sign of new life, new beginnings and the promise of Springtime near.
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring,” poet and philosopher George Santayana wrote. Yet after Winter’s dark mornings, cold and inclement weather, springtime seems to enliven our senses and signal seasonal change in its newness, described by e.e. cummings as a time “when the world is mud-luscious,” and “puddle-wonderful.” Or, as Billy Collins imagined, “a spring day so perfect, so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze that it made you want to throw open all the windows in the house…”
“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring,” Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem, “Spring,” begins. I love the spring, and as it returns, I recall my childhood and the exhilaration of the season. Springtime was joyous, filled with sounds of laughter and excited calls to neighborhood playmates, eager to race outdoors and explore the fields and hills behind our houses. The world was full of promise: new grass to romp through, the fields and hills dotted with wildflowers. We cast off winter coats for lighter sweaters, filled our afternoons and weekends with roller skating on sidewalks, climbing beneath barbed wire fences to re-discover favorite hiding places, imagining ourselves as great adventurers and discoverers of new lands, and returning home at dinnertime with flushed cheeks and fists full of yellow poppies and purple lupine for our mothers. Our worlds were alive with promise.
“I can still bring into my body the joy I felt at seeing the first trillium of spring, which seemed to be telling me, “Never give up hope, spring will come.”
― Jessica Stern, Denial: A Memoir of Terror (2010)
It’s little wonder that Springtime is intricately intertwined with hope, renewal, a sense of possibility and new beginnings, according to Edward F. Mackey, director of the Mind-Body Institute of Applied Psychophysiology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Norman Cousins, famous for using laughter to help cure himself from a crippling connective tissue disease, wrote that “hope may be our best medicine, the hidden ingredient in any prescription and a physician’s secret weapon (Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit, 1990). A number of experts agree, arguing that hope may have a direct influence on the body’s chemical milieu and because of that, the power to stave off illness.
Anthony Scioli, PhD, co-author with Henry Biller of Hope in the Age of Anxiety (2009), explored some of the linkages between Springtime, hope and health in a 2012 Psychology Today article. Springtime brings more sunshine, and the sunlight helps the body produce greater amounts of serotonin, an important chemical and neurotransmitter, and helps regulate important functions such as mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory. Low serotonin, in our bodies, is linked to depression. He also cited a survey of oncologists, the majority of whom cited hope as the primary psychological factor impacting mortality. Scioli stated that “while anecdotes outnumber rigorous empirical studies, there is enough evidence to suggest that a hopeful attitude has a real and measurable impact on health.”
The days here in Toronto are still chilly, but the buds on the trees and the increase in sunny days have already lifted my spirits. Soon the tulips and crocus will bloom, the trees will bear new leaves, the “just-spring” color of green, and we’ll hear children shouting to one another as they play in the park across the street. As if reinvigorated by the subtle shifts in the weather, the dogs romping about madly in the park each morning, as the new season tiptoes in and banishes winter from our days.
Hope, new life and return of Springtime are beautifully intertwined in Barbara Crooker’s poem, “For a Friend Lying in Intensive Care Waiting for Her White Blood Cells to Rejuvenate After a Bone Marrow Transplant:”
The jonquils. They come back. They split the earth with
their green swords, bearing cups of light.
The forsythia comes back, spraying its thin whips with
blossom, one loud yellow shout…
And the leaves come back, on every tree and bush, millions
and millions of small green hands applauding your return.
(In: The Cancer Poetry Project, V. 1, 2001)
Reflect on springtime. Do you notice changes in your energy, mood or outlook? Do you feel more hopeful about life in general? Explore the impact of spring on your mood and energy.
Is Spring a time of healing and of hope? Explore the question.
What memories of springtime do you hold dear? Write about a springtime in your childhood. Capture the feelings, the sounds and sights of spring as vividly as you can.
Why not do as Georgia O’Keefe suggested: hold a flower in your hand and let it become your world for a moment. Perhaps you’ll find a poem waiting there.
Write about spring, wherever it takes you.