East of NORMAL

Color it springtime — for now ...

Spring is here. And thank God.
     Winter is as close as my male faculties get to understanding what pregnancy must feel like. By the time it’s almost done with, you’re at your breaking point. For God’s sake, enough already! Like birthing, winter saves its worst pain for last. Was it just a few short weeks ago when school was out for a week — for the second time — and the single-digit temps made you gasp when leaving the house, if you even left the house? Yes, I can look at my calendar and count backward. It wasn’t so long ago. But we made it through. (Push! Push!) And now everything is beautiful again.
     Spring is a celebration of color after a cold stark purgatory when everything looked like faded ‘70s film stock. Suddenly the world explodes in saturated hues like a photosynthetic flash mob. There is something reassuring about rampant greenery. It tells me that we haven’t yet fully gang-raped the planet and left it a bald heap of tectonic charcoal.
     In the South, we have those gorgeous light-purple trees and the winsome off-white ones. Now, for the purposes of writing this column, I could have easily found out what those trees are called, whether they’re cherry blossoms or dogwoods or rosebuds; but I don’t want to find out. There is something I cherish about just knowing them by their colors. That’s all they have to be to me — pretty and colorful — reassuring me with every year they come back to say hello. They don’t seek to know my name, and I don’t need to know theirs. I do believe they have a consciousness, that they see us and hear us, and appreciate it when we talk to them (and I do). Maybe you can’t get a tree to do your taxes, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of intelligence there. A giant, century-old David Byrne with bark looking back at nature’s consistency, season after season; same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
     Now, there are drawbacks to all this lush and fecund Southern grandeur. For instance, until I moved to Tennessee, I had no idea that I was allergic to anything. I’d lived in Kentucky the first 29 years of my life and had never sneezed once, and then I moved here, to a place where you have to turn on your windshield wipers to get rid of the pollen; a place where little white wispy bits of fluff blow off trees and fill the air like you’re living in the middle of an antihistamine commercial.
     And it won’t be long before the sun’s demeanor goes from benevolence to malevolence, from giver of life to Satan writ large, beating us down with brain-boiling heat. And the humidity — don’t get me started. Let’s just call it what it is — steam. Soon enough, you’ll be wearing soupy air like a hooded bathrobe soaked in mayonnaise, walking outside and feeling like an unmade bed. That’s what we have to look forward to. But not quite yet. It’s not time for that just yet. It’s spring. Celebrate it. Live in its moment. Go on a picnic. Jog. Plant a garden. It won’t be long before you’ll be wearing a wicking shirt at Tomato Fest and schvitzing your nads off.