Earlier this week, I was trying to make myself sit down at my laptop to work on a writing assignment. Trouble was, I just didn’t really want to. Sit down, that is. Or work. Now that is not unusual for writers in general, but it wasn’t hard to conclude what might be at the root of the strange feeling in my blood that made my limbs want to twitch in a manner commonly referred to as dancing. Even though there was no music on.
Even though I don’t dance (at least not in a way anyone would want to actually witness).
But I’ve felt that way several times lately—not like I wanted to dance, necessarily, but like I wanted to, well, something. To move. To get going. To DO something.
I even thought about—wait for it—exercising again!
Too bad spring only comes around once a year. I might be slimmer if it did more often.
I wanted to run through some woods (even though I don’t run, either) under a canopy of green. I wanted to feel dirt under my feet and to inhale that indescribable scent that comes from the burst of new life.
Turns out there wasn’t a thing wrong with me other than a touch of that old spring fever.
Granted, the coming of spring isn’t as big a deal in sunny Central Florida as it was when I lived up north. For a couple of years before we returned to my home state, I loved to stroll through the woods that backed our house, especially on those mornings I got up to discover that the stick-figure trees had gone bushy-green overnight.
And all this week, with spring edging ever closer, I’ve wanted to throw open every window in the house and let the breeze blow away the last tinge of winter chill and accumulated dust . . . yet in my neighborhood we seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to summer, with a pollen count so high I had to borrow from my mom’s stash of allergy medicine for the first time in I don’t know when.
But I don’t care. Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, and dammit, my pants want to get up and dance (hat tip to Dr. Hook).
It’s SPRING, people! Get out there and rejoice. Pollen and all.
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Is spring fever for real? The experts say there is an actual biological component. To put it simply, the lowest levels of brain serotonin are found in the winter and the highest levels in spring and summer, which “may help explain why many people feel better and more energetic in the spring.” Others cite the increase of light during the spring months, causing the body to produce less melatonin and a “reduced desire to sleep”; dilation of blood vessels with warmer temperatures; an increase in endorphins and hormones.
(And here I thought it was just the joy of being able to ditch those winter long johns and itchy wool sweaters.)
Serotonin and hormone levels aside, the vernal equinox—the first official day of spring—is a big deal, symbolizing the regeneration of nature, with its own myths, traditions, and even superstitions. For example, one popular belief, often attributed to the Chinese, is that you can stand a raw egg on end on this day. Of course, it is also said that you can do this on any other day if you just have enough patience, but go ahead. I’ll wait. Another old fable advises that you’ll want to kill the first adder you spot in the spring if you wish to overcome all your enemies.
By the way, before this halcyon time of year came to be known as “spring” in the 16th century, it was called Lent, or Lenten. And the first known use of the term “spring cleaning” dates to 1857.
Perhaps the answer lies in Jewish, Chinese or Iranian tradition. In Iran, the pre-new year ritual known as khaneh takani, or “shaking the house,” means that everything from ceiling to floor and in between gets a thorough scouring. Once the house is shaken, the new year, and spring, can arrive. (I know a good shaking would benefit MY house! I might even find some things that went missing years ago.)
In the Jewish faith, Passover is a time of house cleaning as well. Because slaves in Egypt, including the Jews, were fed unleavened (yeast-free) bread, it serves as a symbol of their subjection. During Passover, the presence of leavened bread in the house, even if it consists only of crumbs, is considered an insult to God, so homes are well scrubbed beforehand. Could this be the origin of our more modern spring cleaning? Since both events occur in April, many think so. Then again, we could have the Chinese to thank, as their pre-new year sweep is designed to rid their homes of bad luck and misfortune that accumulated in the outgoing year.
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Whether the warmer air and longer hours of sunshine make you want to wash your windows or fly a kite or take a walk in the woods—or something else altogether—one thing that makes spring special is that, like the dawning of January 1, it signals new growth and new beginnings. If you’re like me and haven’t been doing such a hot job of keeping certain “resolutions” you made a few months ago, spring is a great time to dust them off with the furniture, even if, like me, you’ll probably have to repeat the process about as often as you dust your furniture. Or maybe you’ll enjoy improving the look of your lawn as well as benefiting your health by gathering some dandelions for a cup of tea.
Whatever you end up doing, remember that no one said it better than the late and much-lamented Robin Williams:
“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
So proceed accordingly.