As a resident of the northern-hemisphere living in a continental climate with pretty extreme climate variations, it’s pretty easy to get drawn into the unending dramatization of life, as played out by climate (or is it the other way around?). One of my favorite internet presences is Kenny Blumenfeld whose list-serve-based weather soliloquies make him a legend and rock-star in local nerd-circles. While his emails aren’t for the faint of heart (the wall of text can intimidate the weaker among us), they’re more than worth it for the wit and insight alone, like the one that keeps popping back into my mind: the idea that spring and fall aren’t actually discrete things–they’re just battlegrounds between summer and winter.
I find that captures March better than any concept of spring does. It’s a kind of betwixt space, but not in a foggy way. It’s the inbetween that your brain processes when two images are alternated so swiftly that they merge–it doesn’t come out of neutrality but extremes, where a disk spins faster and faster until it seems to be standing still. It’s the battles Kenny describes, weather fronts clashing for the fate of the next few months, a tumult and each of us a hard-weathered ship on that sea.
In Minnesota, that flux can mean twelve inches of snow or 90 degree Fahrenheit weather. It’s unpredictable and intense and even when it seems like a mild and steady plodding, a fight of pokes rather than punches, it still carries all the baggage that we put onto it. We’ve been months (eternities!) cooped up in too-small spaces with windows shut from the sounds of the outside world. We’ve gone through the cozy bits of winter with the hot chocolate and fairytale feelings of being in the world snow globes always wish they captured, the inevitable sniffles and slightly justified but temporarily satisfying binge-watching a series, the sincere awe at the beauty of fat flakes falling or icicles growing longer overnight, the invigoration of letting ourselves sink into the cold in walks across lakes or skating or sledding or shoveling through it. Everything we thought comforted and cocooned us now feels stifling and we are thrown back into visceral memories of the some long-ago world, a time before wool.
In March, what would have been beautiful in December is an infuriating and a betrayal. What would have been freezing in August is shorts-weather. We’re itchy in our own skin, alternately overdressed and sweating and underdressed and shivering. Our up is down and our down is up. We talk about March Madness and try to pretend it’s external to us, safe and knowable by those who cast the right statistics and sheep’s entrails. But we’re really no more than domesticated creatures with an evolutionary urge to molt, a near-physical itch to replace our skin with a new one, to create order out of chaos and newness out of decay. We know that something big is happening, that battle between winter and summer is taking place from day to day and while we watch the sky and world for signs of it in the changing shapes and patterns of the clouds and the sudden emergence of green, it’s just as much within us.