By Ron Cook
“And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”
(~Joni Mitchell~ The Circle Game)
The cycle is coming around to the Spring of our year … new life, new joys, new seasons. I have been in Venice, Florida this winter time. It has been a beautiful change from my Michigan, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana winters. Flowers, trees, people are constantly in bloom here, but I “look behind” as Joni says, from time to time, of past winters and lovely springs.
Winters in Michigan were long and wet during my early formative years. Plowing snow in my sleep for my dad’s business during the Blizzard of 1965 is still a fresh memory … Learning to ski on mushy ice was another. I joined the Cub, Boy and Explorer Scouts meeting over the old three-lane bowling alley in town; and canoed the Ausable River out of Grayling, Michigan. I heard recently that my dad, Julius, hunted with Fred Bear (an archery reference for y’all hunters). Spring was wet and muddy … yet glorious with green and exploding color after lengthy, long Winter nights (dark by 5:00 pm). Humidity from the “Lake-Effect” (Great Lakes surround the ‘mitten’ state) making cold colder and hot wetter. Water is a great love in the Michigander world. I also loved reclaiming my yard, flowers and outdoor life in the Michigan Spring. It was always a surprise to see what lay under the snow-soaked and crushed landscape.
My early years in Colorado included Spring skiing, hiking and camping on late snow-covered trails, and treacherous driving down the I-25 corridor where out-of-state non-natives slipped and slid even on lightly snow-packed passages. Spring brings tremendous fresh air to the Mountains … something I cannot describe; it must be inhaled to understand. Hooded ski jackets, mukluk boots, and mittens give way to the Spring fashions of flannel shirts, jeans and Birkenstocks … People wander from their cabin-fevered dwellings, to again get back into the great outdoors Coloradans adore.
Texas Winters can be everything from mild to brutal. Tejas (the Native American greeting to the early settlers), has five actual climate zones! WHAT??? Where I lived, ten miles north of Abilene in Hawley, Norther’s were a familiar bone-chilling reality. This wind could hard-freeze water lines that were not always buried at the four-foot depths of Michigan or Colorado (in Arizona water lines were buried so shallow that the hot water spickets were not needed to be used most of the year!). One winter in Tejas was so wet that flowers not seen in decades burst from the red soil!!! Glorious!
I spent one wet January in Louisiana at a camp on the Cane River. Michigan winters had prepared me somewhat for the almost daily, all-day rain that Louisiana endures as normal. The Cajun spirit is untarnished by this rust-mold inducing condition, preparing comfort foods and gathering for joyously hopeful expectations of Spring. Spring comes warm and moist in Louisiana. Not since Michigan have I seen such a prodigious display of green lushness that the Louisiana landscape embraces. Skyscraping Pines, dense underbrush, exploding color become more pronounced in Louisiana Springs. Gratefulness for a little less liquid-sunshine abounds. Gardens are Winter-planted. Weather, in no way, dampens the ‘Who-Dat’ friendliness of the Louisiana DNA. Every person you meet on a Louisiana Spring-street is a new potential friendly, joyous encounter. As Winter shakes off its last wet hold on Louisiana, people here never miss a step in their singing, dancing, walk through their lives. Tradition, food, family, and joy permeate the newness of Spring in Louisiana in a way outsiders are drawn to share, and try to package back with them to their homes. Yet Louisiana outside of Louisiana is a not real thing. You have to be there to “be there.”
Have yourself a joyous Spring! As Shakespeare wrote… “Hope Springs Eternal.” I choose to interpret that to mean … We can restart our life, our year, our joyous attitude at ANY time. Spring is that time, in our yearly cycle, to remember these sentiments, and re-inject our lives with Hope.