Spring has come. Ignore the fact that we hardy citizens of the northern latitudes are still wearing coats, still cranking up the heat, still gazing wistfully at bare trees.
It’s late March and the calendar says spring has come, so here’s a guide to making the most of this fickle season.
- Wash a window.
In the dull, gray days of winter, you didn’t notice how filthy your windows were, but now the days get longer, brighter. The sun streams in like an interrogation light, and the truth is revealed: Your windows are as filthy as the sidewalk gutters.
You don’t have to clean all your windows now. In fact, in Chicago, that’s a dumb idea. You know it’s going to snow again.
So clean just one. Think of it as your personal opening day.
Remember: Clean window, clear mind.
- Put away your monster winter coat.
You still need a coat. In Chicago, you’ll need a coat until June. But you don’t need that bulky coat that got you through the polar vortex, the one that reeks of all your cooped-up winter sweat and desperation. Find a lighter one.
Remember: Lighter coat, lighter heart.
- Look — really look — at a tree.
At first glance, the trees still look bare. Look closer and you’ll see the reliable miracle: all those small red sprouts eager to turn into leaves.
Look at the same tree the next day and notice how much they changed while you were sleeping.
And think of Philip Larkin’s great spring poem “The Trees,” which begins: “The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said.”
- Listen to the birds.
Kids know the promise of March: Life, on its way
Like the leaf sprouts on the trees, the birds seem to multiply every day now. They’re easier to hear than they are to see, but I swear that one day last week I saw a robin.
Pretty soon there will be so many birds, and they’ll be so loud, that they’ll wake you up before dawn. When you’re tempted to curse them for chirping at 4:30 a.m., remember how glad you are they’re back, more proof of the reliable miracle.
- Find some flowers.
Finding flowers is different from planting them. Real Chicagoans know that planting before May 15 — the average date of the final frost — is a gamble, like storing your sweaters in April.
But spring demands flowers. You can find them in all sorts of places — at the Garfield Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the supermarket.
At a minimum, you can find them on Facebook where every person in the Chicago metro area who has spotted a crocus popping out of the dirt has documented it in a photo.
- Plan a summer trip.
It doesn’t have to be soon or faraway, but the anticipation of going somewhere in the summer makes spring even brighter.
- Do not check the weather in Sun Belt places.
If you’ve ever lived in a place where March meant warm air and flowering trees, you may still be disoriented by March in Chicago.
You’re better off not being reminded, for example, that on Friday afternoon, when the temperature in Chicago was 39 degrees, it was 75 in New Orleans, 73 in Phoenix and 72 in Key West.
It’s better for your mental health to make fun of the hooligans trampling the superblooms in Southern California.
- Wash your car.
Your car is as filthy as your windows, your coat and the sidewalk gutters. Washing it in winter was futile, but now, in the searing light of March, when you feel your energy revive, a dirty car will just make you tired.
- Go outside.
The season of going outside is back. You can walk or run without fear of slipping on the ice. But don’t forget your sunscreen or your hat. A dermatologist once told me that she began treating Chicago sunburns in March.
- Take a photo of a bare tree or a barren plot of land.
Document what early spring looks like. In Chicago, except for the light, it looks a lot like winter. Then take a photo of the same spot in April, May, July. The photos will be proof that this thing called spring is only the beginning of the rejuvenation.