• Rachel

Written in Every Leaf of Springtime

Every season has its beauty, but spring is in many ways most magnificent and in many ways most pleasant. Sam asked his fellow hobbit in J.R.R Tolkien's Return of the King, "Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?" Sam speaks wistfully of spring. "It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”

The Sublime Experience

Spring is a unique and wonderful combination of beauties and sounds and smells. We love the natural wonders, the first flowers and budding of flowering trees, the new green leaves growing on trees, the just perfect, not-too-hot and not-too cold days and evenings. Taking a walk in the spring is a sublime experience, both pleasant in the mildness of the temperatures and the glories of the breathtaking scenery.

We see the first daffodils come up early in spring. They bloom for just a little while. It's the same with the white blossoms on the flowering trees. They bloom in their glory for a week or two and give way to light green leaves. The tulips bloom for a little while, and the pink flowering trees burst forth as the white ones did just a week or two before. A variety of flowers pop up, and wildlife becomes more active. The brevity of these wonders causes us to take note of them, to appreciate them. They are fleeting joys, one such joy following another until spring gives way to summer. There is a science to why we feel better in the spring. We are treated to the beauties of nature, we are outside more, and we are exposed to more light. Sunlight influences our hormones and moods. We get a nice serotonin boost. Scientists say we save energy that we use in the winter to fight off cold. We like being at a comfortable temperature. We feel less energetic when cold and often grumpy when hot. "Just right" is a good place to be.

People socialize in spring as days get longer and are more pleasant, as outdoor activities are more inviting, and coincidentally, as end of the year school activities come up. It is easier to get up on time on a moderate spring day when it is light outside than in the cold dark mornings of winter. It can be a little easier to get out and walk or exercise. A University of Michigan study found that spending a half hour or so outdoors in pleasant weather can improve memory and "broaden cognitive style." This is linked to more creative thinking. The season of rebirth is also the season of new ideas. The Season of Love?

We associate spring with love, and that makes sense. It's the mating season for birds and many animals. A boost in serotonin and dopamine and decrease in melatonin that comes with spring which we expect to make humans more receptive to intimacy. Dopamine is triggered by novel experiences, and spring is full of new things. It makes sense to scientists that love is in the air in spring.

But humans are complex. Spring and the weeks leading to spring may also be "breakup season." While not scientifically definitive, Facebook found that March was the most common time of the year for breakups. While January sees the most divorce filings, March is a popular month for that as well. Some see this phenomenon as "uncuffing season," a time when people detach from relationships in a form of spring cleaning. But statistically, spring is not a very sexy season, and March is notably not a very sexy month. Babies are more often conceived in late fall or winter, though various factors affect that. Thorns among the Roses

But just as some feel down at Christmas or Valentine's Day, which are supposed to be happy occasions, spring isn't always a happy time for everyone. The problems of life affect all seasons, and the bright, beautiful days that don't match a mood can feel wrong to someone who is dealing with difficult trials. For some, it is the anniversary of a loss or trauma. Spring is challenging for those with seasonal allergies. And people with bipolar disorder appear at this time to have more symptoms of the disorder in spring, according to one study. The beautiful flowers and trees send forth not-always-so-beautiful pollen that causes sneezing and watering eyes and sinus headaches for many.

Change, even positive change, can be stressful for some. Disruption in circadian rhythms is linked to depression. For the farmer, spring is planting. For the accountant, it is tax season. For the taxpayer, it means tax forms coming due. For high school and university students, there are exams. Some engage in spring cleaning. These challenges and other spring projects can cause anxiety. For some, spring comes, and things don't seem better. That means disappointment.

Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a condition where someone experiences seasonal depression. Less well known is that ten percent or so of sufferers become depressed as weather gets warmer and sunnier. Some call this "reverse SAD." For some, the season that fills with joy for most fills them with a sense that everyone else is happy, and they are not.

For some introverts, winter provides the perfect social climate. There are a few weeks of holiday parties, but it is generally "stay inside, go to bed early" weather. Staying home with a book or movie is far preferable to socializing for many people. Spring for them is the end of the perfect, cozy days, huddled in a sweater, under a blanket, with some cocoa. Some people are more comfortable in winter clothes, sometimes, but not necessarily because winter clothes are less revealing. Some just love the snuggly warmth of winter clothes. And some just love winter and cold weather for its own sake.

Surprisingly, suicides peak in spring. Scientists aren't sure why, but people with psychiatric disorders are more prone to suicides in spring and early summer. This tragic phenomenon may be related to pollen counts and inflammation. Some believe there are chemicals that are released in people with allergies and that those chemicals trigger anxiety. People with allergies have higher suicide rates, and scientists are looking for physiological reasons for that.

Though January is seen as the saddest month of the year, T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month. “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” Eliot wrote that “Mixing memory and desire can be a hazardous activity. I think we do that in April because the spring months hold so many milestones, like graduations and weddings. We look back with nostalgia or regret or with unfulfilled dreams and desires. This season of rebirth prods us to keep moving ...maybe too quickly. Perhaps we're not ready yet."

Anyone past the spring of his or her life, knows that season is gone and its wonders memories, never to come again. Memories of past springs may be bittersweet. Spring brings with it promise. Past springs have not always lived up to their promise in our seasons of life. It can feel wrong to be depressed when everyone is happy, or seems happy, when people feel that they should be happy. The Promise Expressed through Nature's Awakening

But for most of us, spring is hope, rebirth, and renewal. It's beauties delight us. The beauty of spring, if not for everyone proof of God, is proof of the miraculous. Martin Luther said, "Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime." Spring is miracle after miracle, on bright display, an explosion of color across landscapes that were muted brown and gray just weeks earlier. For those of us reveling in the joys of the season, the opportunity exists to lift those for whom spring failed to spark that sense of inner wonder or who need greater miracles in their lives. Love and service know no season but bless all seasons of the year and all seasons of our lives.

Comic/tragic figure Robin Williams was loved by people all over the world. He is known for comic and serious acting and observations. Of spring, he said simply, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”


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