Ode to spring, Baltimore style

March pleasures: From Druid Hill Park to the Inner Harbor, the city wakes and stretches after its winter hibernation.

March 18, 2000|By Jacques Kelly

I'VE BEEN SUMMONED from bed on these dank and moody March mornings by the urge to travel.

It's a funny time of the year when from day to day, I can never tell what the temperature will be at the hour when the morning paper has yet to be delivered and the only clear sound I can distinguish is the distant wail of a coal train working hard to clear the hill toward the Clifton Park flatlands.

Now that winter is history, I can't resist exiting a warm bed and stretching legs -- either on a 6: 45 walk around the neighborhood or a trek to work with a couple of totally unnecessary side trips added to make the effort more interesting.

No bus today. The Maryland spring is all too rare to waste.

I use these cool morning walks to clear my brain of winter's frustrations. And along the way I'll do some snooping and make some observations as Baltimore emerges from a winter's hibernation.

On Wednesday, Baltimore had a remarkable morning, one of those days when the street trees seemed to have gone from bud to blossom overnight -- like the moment when you first turn on the electricity for the Christmas lights.

Along with the forsythia, the reddish sprouts on the rose bushes and the fresh weeds in the sidewalk cracks, I also saw my neighbors. It seems that for all of the months when the nights are so long I never see the people who live next door and up the block. They dash in a straight line from cars and bus stops to their front doors, which, 15 seconds later, get tightly locked behind them.

But, liberated from their winter enclosures, they're now out and on the streets.

This week I got reacquainted with the Baltimore that I said goodbye to sometime around Halloween.

I revisited my favorite alleys and discovered piles of trash that somehow got buried by the heavy snows. Or were people so depressed they just didn't feel like dealing with cleanliness? Or more to the point, who would notice during the shorter days of December and January?

As I walked around, I watched the banks of the lawn at Druid Hill Park go green. I played noontime hooky one day (I admit I cheated and took a cab) and visited the Greenway and Springlake Way. On a fine March afternoon, I can see why the Department of Assessment and Taxation has such a merry old time in Guilford and Homeland.

Each neighborhood holds its March pleasures too -- check out the columns of freshly blooming grayish white Bradford pear trees off the side streets that intersect West North Avenue.

And as many times as I have crossed Light and Pratt streets at high noon, there is nothing quite like the experience of doing a 6 a.m. harbor trek as the sun clears the distant Dundalk horizon. I know this is landscape blasphemy, but I'll take these urban sunrises over those I've seen over the Atlantic Ocean.

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