Spring's here. I can tell.
In place of my daughter's usual wet snowboots soaking the carpet in the middle of the living room floor, this morning there were my daughter's wet roller blades soaking the carpet in the middle of the living room floor. It's a subtle difference, but a sure sign of spring, nonetheless.
Winter's been hard on us, hasn't it? There's as many potholes in the streets as their are in our attitudes, worn thin by an endless traffic stream of cold, grey days. Our skin resembles alligator hide, and we're paler than a latter-day Michael Jackson.
I don't know about you, but the first taste of spring brings out a little craziness in me. My list of things needing to be done in winter reads something like this: "1. Get up. 2. Go to work. 3. Pick up groceries. 4. Check kids homework. 5. Sleep. 6. Repeat endlessly."
In spring, my list of undone things gets more interesting: "1. Run. 2. Bike. 3. Find a mountain to climb. 4. Discover a way to wear shorts and sandals to work without being fired. 4b. If fired, decide that isn't such a bad thing, and wear the sandals anyway. 5. Pick up mangos, kiwis and coconuts. 6. Trade wife's car for a cafe racer motorcycle and trade the house for an old wood sailboat." And so on.
On days like this, with the almost-forgotten feeling of sun on your shoulders and the breath of adventure on a 60-degrees breeze, the little boy comes out - the one that used to like to tightrope walk the railroad trestle over the river, dive headfirst out of a rope swing into the lake, and think about climbing in a train car and going wherever it could go.
The first taste of spring frees up your sense of responsibility a bit. On days like today, disappearing can become an almost unbearable urge.
Suddenly, places like Costa Rica or the Fiji Islands seem like a perfectly logical place to be, as opposed to, say, the Wal-Mart auto parts aisle or the salad bar at the grocery store.
There really should be spring break for adults. All those places I've yet to be, with mysterious names like Viti Levu, No Name Key, Dunk Island, Runaway Bay, call to me.
It seems to be an inherited weakness. Daughter Kate is actively planning a move to Key West, perhaps to open an art studio-slash-marine biology research center-slash-video arcade-slash-pop music recording studio. Problem there being she is 11 years old, and has to be in her bed at 8:45 p.m. on school nights.
You don't have to be a kid to dream, though.
You want to hold up your hand in the middle of another staff meeting, say "Back in just a sec, boss," and not ever be. Toss the tie on the desk as you go by, roll down the car windows, and take the first highway pointing to a volcanic beach. Come on, admit it...
Mark Twain called it "variegated vagabonding." The Australians call it "walkabout."
Huckleberry Finn said it this way:
"Well, I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and civilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before."
We've been there all winter long, and enough civilization is enough.
It's the time of year for me to take Mozart out of my computer's CD drive and insert Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley.
It's time to ditch the novels and get out dog-eared favorites, Hemingway and Karoak and Michener, "Following the Equator," "Travels With Charlie," and all of the rest of the books that can take you to explore the seas, jungles and deserts without ever leaving your reading rock beside our little lake.
Hemingway said, "There are two kinds of stories, the ones you live and the ones you make up. And nobody knows the difference. I don't ever tell which is which." We should all have some of both.
It's spring today, or at least it feels like it from here, for the first time in a long, long, loooooooong time.
If I don't show up for work tomorrow, just stick a message in a bottle and throw it from some nice beach somewhere. If I don't happen along in body, my mind will at least probably be passing that way.