Driving down I-94 west on a bitter-cold day, I glance up at the electronic 5-Eyewitness News billboard that gives me a tidbit of my daily news. The myriad geese flapping their undoubtedly chilled wings obstruct my view of the passing billboard, as I merge into the left lane. At first, I am irritated at losing my precisely 3.5-second chance of catching the news. Then, I realize that a giant flock of noisy geese at this time of year only can mean one thing: Spring finally is near. The mere thought of spring around the corner finds me smelling flowers; inhaling the damp, warm air; and tasting fresh barbequed burgers and hot dogs. I shudder with excitement.
As a Minnesotan, I appreciate spring presumably more than anyone else in the country (or so I like to think), because I first must put up with the freezing cold, the impossible driving conditions, and the wait-in-line-for-hours-at-the-impound lot snow emergencies. Enduring the unfeasible winter only is possible by being able to look ahead to budding leaves, neighborhood barbecues, and cheerful pedestrians flooding the barren streets again. That time is here, and I couldn’t feel better about it.
Spring in Minnesota tickles the five senses. It awakens the numbed feelings of happiness and freedom that hibernated along with all the smart animals, geese included. It looks, sounds, tastes, feels, and smells like a new beginning—a light at the end of a blustery tunnel.
While walking through Uptown on the first extraordinarily nice day in six months, I notice that the residents of this lovely city have deserted their homes, and taken a step into the great and unfamiliar outdoors. Outside tables are filled with sunglasses-clad people eager to soak up every ounce of sun possible; roads are flooded with antsy bicyclists grateful for safer driving conditions; and sidewalks are full of new dogs that must not have been let outside all winter long, as suddenly, I see hundreds more than I have since last September. The conclusion is obvious: Spring is here, and everyone in the city, like myself, intends to enjoy each second of it.
Little chartreuse buds enthusiastically are pushing their way out of the naked gray branches strewn throughout the streets. The incredible amount of dirty snow that accumulates throughout the winter and turns a sordid brown starts to be defeated by the lurking sun, leaving puddles throughout the sidewalks, and obstructing peaceful strollers. But nobody cares, because it’s spring.
Prickly brown grass is coming to life again, as snow is replaced with rain that pours down vigorously, quenching the greenery’s thirst. Fields now are dotted with Frisbees and footballs, as tough Minnesotans substitute shorts and T-shirts for winter gear, even though the temperature is what people in many other parts of the country consider to be “cold.” All the 10,000-plus lakes in the state have started their much-anticipated thawing. Soon, they will be filled with sailboats, canoes, and eventually water-sport enthusiasts. Minnesota, dear readers, finally is melting.
Suddenly, I hear music wherever I go, as windows at last are opened, and people are playing a sound track during their spring-cleaning. The music sounds like happiness, reassurance, and liveliness. Chirping birds harmonize with the music. Laughter is a drum that keeps it on beat. Spring sounds like feet splashing in puddles, children playing, and roaring thunderstorms.
A stroll through the streets of Minnesota will find one being serenaded by eager musicians looking to make a bit of extra change. Whether they make the desired amount of money or not, spring is providing them with the opportunity to play music outdoors, and that in itself is indisputably worth every minute of their time. People are humming, dogs are barking, and feet are traversing the barren streets again. Spring is in the air: I can hear it.
Springtime finds me drinking iced coffees in the morning, unsweetened iced teas in the afternoon, and chilled beer at night. The day the temperature climbs above 50 degrees, it seems as though every inhabitant of Minnesota rolls out a rusty grill, and cooks up some delicious springtime food: corn on the cob, burgers, hot dogs, and grilled onions, with watermelon, tuna salad, lemonade, and ice-cold drinks.
Something about a freshly barbecued cheeseburger tastes far superior to one from a restaurant. Maybe it’s the taste of a loved one’s cooking expertise, or the feeling of spending time outside. Perhaps it just tastes so good because the weather feels even better. Regardless, the tastes of spring are short, but very sweet.
The day spring arrives, I spend every second outside that is physically possible. I pull out a chair, situate it so that I directly face the sun, and feel it penetrate my skin and awaken my dormant senses. My hair is brightening, my skin is darkening, and my mood is skyrocketing. A light breeze cools my heated skin, as I bask in the sun.
Excitement, relief, and satisfaction are riveting, as they pump through my veins, bestowing the emotional counterpart to my physical awareness of the season. Twins games have commenced. Summer Music and Movies in Loring Park is lurking around the corner. Soon enough, art fairs and music festivals will be presenting themselves to eager, awakening city-dwellers.
Spring in Minnesota is a time for lengthy promenades through the city, with pit stops at local coffee shops and cafés. A jaunt wouldn’t be a springtime walk without the lingering scent of lilacs in bloom, and fresh-cut grass blowing in the wind. If only lilacs would last more than a day or two after they are ripped from their stems, and placed into an artificial glass habitat in the center of the kitchen table, as everyone seems to do with them. The springtime smell of budding flowers generally lasts only for a much-too-short few weeks, but during that time, it smells like the Sunken Garden at the Como Conservatory.
While watching the sun gleam off deep puddles in the suddenly populated streets, I inhale the sweet smell of spring, and exhale my dread of winter, as I successfully have made it thorough another of Minnesota’s unbearably cold seasons. As residents of Minnesota, we all know that whether you like the winter or not, it just gets too darn cold sometimes.
To open yourself up and be overcome by your senses is truly to enjoy spring in Minnesota. The tastes, the smells, and the feeling of triumph as the wintry horror melts away, and life begins to show its face again—all of it exudes an inexorable sense of relief, as spring finally has sprung in Minnesota.