Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Hope of Spring

Yesterday was one of those wild weather days we get here in Texas in the spring. At one point, our local tornado sirens went off; though the tornadic storm was passing to the south, and though the reported tornado itself was a whole county below us, we took refuge in the bathroom anyway until the sirens stopped blaring. In this part of the country, you never know, and I'm not inclined to take the tornado sirens lightly in any case.

In other parts of this nation of ours spring has slushed in with weary additions to the bleak graying piles of old snow; when the weather does begin to turn, there will be floods of melting snow, thick sticky mud, wild winds that bring a wintry chill back even to late May picnics, and all the joy of seasonal allergies.

And yet, compared to winter, we welcome spring. We're happy when it starts to unfurl shy petals or send forth bashful balmy breezes; we look forward to it, despite its occasional violence or ugly weather. There's a reason that spring, and not summer, is the poet's synonym for hope, that though April may be the cruelest month it's also much, much kinder than fickle March or dreary February. In Texas, as well as other parts of the country, spring may bring tornadoes, but it also brings lovely clear days, early warmth, freedom from the indoors, and a sense that those things we've been putting off all winter may now be possible to accomplish.

Homeschooling moms are, I think, especially in need of spring. The third quarter has dragged its slow length along like Pope's wounded snake, and the days have lost all poetry. We can't go on forever in the dull cold sameness of winter; we need inspiration. We need the visual sonnet of brightening skies, the playful pentameters of pattering rain, the cheery limerick in the warm sunshine and soft winds. We need the whole song of hope and the enticing promise of summer if we're going to turn once again, with renewed spirits, to algebraic equations or discussions of historic events or perplexing matters of English grammar. We need to know that when the books close for the day there will be more to learn and enjoy in the outdoor air, that we can feed our desire for the world's beauty on bright green shoots and purple flowers, bursting forth from ground that was dry or muddy or covered with snow not all that long ago.

That's one nice thing about Texas: we've already had some of those lovely days, and will have more and more of them as the weeks pass. The heavy winter clothes are already being gathered up for their annual sorting: outgrown things to give away, clothes to grow into to the garage to be stored. And the light summer tees and shorts have come in from their winter's banishment to be sorted as well; the girls are always happy to see these clothes again, and to bask in the no-coat-no-sweater freedom of this time of year.

For the homeschooling moms to the north of us, I can offer a word of encouragement: soon. Soon you will be enjoying lovely weather, too; soon, if not already, your own spring rituals will begin. And if freedom for your children is light-jacket-light sweater--well, it's still freedom, for them and for you. If the third quarter seems like the quarter that will never die, and if there's still snow piled up outside your door, it will still be soon.

Even here in Texas where spring comes early and decisively, wearing a cowboy hat festooned with bluebonnets instead of a demure straw bonnet adorned with a single buttercup, I've sometimes fallen prey to that feeling that spring will never come, that the dullness of winter has sapped all of my energy and that even warmer weather and brighter days won't help much. And then spring bounces in, infecting me with her enthusiasm and joy, and I find that it's much easier to get through the fourth quarter's work than I ever thought it would be--and that there's time left over at the end of the day for some of that clothes sorting or general spring cleaning that I thought would never get done. So if any relatively new homeschoolers are reading this, and feeling some similar sense of frustration at continued cold weather or long, naggy days, rest assured: it's quite normal, and it will pass. Soon.

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