If you could bottle the feeling that a few days of rare springlike weather provides in mid-February in northwest Iowa, you would be one filthy nouveau riche son of a gun.
A couple of days without a coat, maybe even in shorts, when we should by all rights be shivering with a high below freezing, is a beautiful thing. A poem written in sunshine, a preview of coming attractions, a get out of jail free card that reminds us that we are still mostly alive.
I’m aware that by the time you read this, you may be under three feet of snow, but we really have to celebrate our windfall of warmth, however brief it may be. I’m going to catch hell for this from the liberals, but if 63 degrees in February is climate change, I’m all in favor. Of course, if it’s 218 degrees in July, I may change my politics on this.
Winter’s been hard on us, hasn’t it? There’s as many potholes in the streets as there are in our attitudes, worn thin by an endless traffic stream of cold, gunmetal grey days. Our skin resembles alligator hide, we cough and hack from a progression of uncommon colds, 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. Concentrating on desk work is impossible.
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. Sleep. 5. Repeat endlessly.”
In spring, my list of undone things gets more interesting: “1. Hike. 2. Bike. 3. Beach. 4. Find a mountain to climb. 5. Discover a way to wear shorts and sandals to work without being fired. 5b. If fired, decide that isn’t such a bad thing, and wear the sandals anyway. 6. Pick up mangos, kiwis and coconuts. 7. Call everybody “mon.” 8. Trade the house for an old wood sailboat and escape to parts unknown. 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 river without sampling for nitrate content and e. Coli. Did you ever dream about climbing in a freight train car and going wherever it could go?
My monthly bill from the local cable TV bandits just went up another $30 bucks. As I stand in a puddle contemplating ripping it into confetti, the thought crosses my mind that the amount could probably cover a down payment on a surf board.
Keep you TV, I’d rather watch waves any day.
The first taste of spring overrides 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 Walmart auto parts aisle or a restaurant with plastic chairs and meals that come in cardboard boxes.
There really should be spring break for adults. Why should college punks have all the fun in life? 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. I recall that daughter Kate at age 11 was 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. She would have done it, too, if she didn’t have 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 endless 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 nix Mozart out of my Spotify playlist and insert Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley.
It’s time to ditch the gritty novels on the reading list and get out dog-eared favorites, Papa 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 my favorite patch of soft grass 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. It appears that we might just make it through another winter. It can’t be long now. Can it?
If I don’t show up for work tomorrow, just stick a message in a bottle and throw it into the nearest ocean. I might not ever get there, but my wandering mind will at least probably be passing that way.