The problem with spring is it's the end of winter

March 30, 2001|By Andrew Reiner

I DON'T need a calendar to tell me spring has arrived in Baltimore. Radio waves are filled with excited babble about the Orioles' chances this season and rubber flip-flops clop through area shopping malls. Across the street from my home in Idlewylde, the neighbors' crocuses are imposing their lascivious colors on a celibate winter landscape.

Perhaps more than any other season, spring arouses our passion. But also our impatience.

What we smell on the early spring wind is less a fecundity of new life and more a nervous urgency to jump-start our lives. Smell the air. It is pregnant with the scent of restlessness because winter in Baltimore is considered a time of endured idling, when we put into neutral our passion for romance, nature and socializing.

What a shame, because we miss the beauty of winter.

Unlike spring's blanket of green that masks the skeletal beauty of trees, winter pulls back the curtain; we can see the haggard beauty, the network of chiseled rivers, in an oak tree's bark. We can see nature's latticework, the shadows of interwoven tree trunks, on sunny leafless hillsides. On clear winter nights, if we stand under a tree and align the full moon in our sights behind the splayed fingers of a leafless tree, we see a sublimely gnarled hand holding aloft an ethereal lantern, a lunar Atlas, a beacon amid profound darkness.

The moon in winter, like the sun in summer, illuminates our landscape from without. It also illuminates our landscape from within. The early darkness that the moon brings imposes a longer moratorium on physical frenzy, which, in turn, encourages a slowing of mental frenzy.

For me this slower pace means finding a quiet enough interior space that I can be present in the moment. To achieve this place of introspection, some people meditate or take yoga or listen to George Winston. I wallow in my past. While listening to Joni Mitchell's album "Blue," I read old letters from long-past girlfriends and look at photographs of when I had more hair, lamenting time's indifference to unrequited love and male-patterned baldness.

I'm not sure why, but a dose or two of such melancholia each week grounds and invigorates me. It has something to do with the reason why I am so drawn to the Andrew Wyeth-like palette of winter, the mottled browns and grays, the speckled white of dirt-streaked snow.

The season's spare, naked topography is a reminder not of that which is gained in spring but of the beauty of that which is lost. Winter is another way of seeing.

Andrew Reiner, a free-lance writer, teaches writing to middle school students at St. James Academy in Monkton.

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