Every year, about this time in March, there finally comes one of the most special days of the year. Personally, I rank it right up there with Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. Of course, I’m talking about that splendid day that dawns warm and bright in northwest Ohio, making it clear that spring really is going to come again. This year it came on Sunday, March 10, the morning after the time change.
Not only does winter in Ohio keep us trapped in our homes, it deadens our senses. The quietest time of the year is during a winter storm as the snow muffles most sounds. Winter also robs us of our vision due to the lack of daylight. Near the winter solstice, many of us go both to and from work in darkness, only seeing daylight on the weekends. Winter is even so cruel as to hide all outdoor smells from us. Every year, I almost forget that the great outdoors has an aroma until the skunks begin to move about again in late winter.
In contrast, I’m amazed by the multisensory explosion of that first unofficial day of spring. This year, as I snuck out to grab my newspaper from the porch, I knew it had arrived. Just in that brief second outside, I smelled the earthy perfume of growing plants, I heard birds twittering, and I soaked in the glorious sunshine that finally felt warm on my skin courtesy of a south wind. The miracle of spring had returned!
As a child in North Baltimore, this would have been the day when we limped our bikes to Swartz’ SOHIO station to fill up the flattened tires with air. We would have pumped up the neighborhood basketball as well. If we were especially lucky, one of the neighborhood kids might have had a kite on hand and we would have used the playground at Powell School as our airfield. Usually, kite flying involved far more planning than flying. It was pretty obvious by age 10 that none of the Beecher Street gang was destined for a career as an aeronautical engineer.
Other games would have included waffle ball in Peterson’s back yard, shooting baskets at Bean’s and a rousing game of Ghosts in the Graveyard before dark. At the end of the day, we would have returned home filthy, tired, and happier than we had felt in months. Our dirty clothes would have been full of the long absent smell of fresh air.
I still remember playing a game that involved the participants taking a small tablet and a pencil and independently walking around the block to carefully record each sign of spring that we witnessed on our journey. When we returned home, we compared notes to see who had seen the most signs of spring on the walk. We assigned points to each indicator of spring and declared a winner and a loser. In hindsight, it seems as if growing up on Beecher Street required a lot of scorekeeping, but in actuality we were all winners by getting to grow up together.
This year I took a long walk on the first unofficial day of spring. The parks and paths were crowded with families, bicycles, and happy dogs on leashes. My heart felt that same overwhelming joy I remember feeling as a child. My senses were reawakened to the sounds, sights, and smells not experienced in months. In my mind, I was still playing that childhood game of tallying the markers of spring: crocuses popping, hawks soaring, geese pairing, and fishermen fishing. At the end of the day, I found myself happier than I had felt in months, tired, and smelling of fresh air. As I drifted off to sleep, I reflected on the timelessness of the miracle of spring.