Sunburned…and Happy

Sharon May 21st, 2009

“Thus goes everyone to the world but I, and I am sunburned.” - Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing

“Can we go outside now?” That’s the first morning song here - each day my children, as I sleepily open their bedroom door, greet me with “Mom, when can we go outside!”  This morning we managed a record - 12 minutes from door opening to the children settled on the front porch, awaiting their oatmeal.  13 minutes until Eli was covered with mud up to his ankles ;-).

There is nothing like spring in the Northeast, after a long, pent-up winter.  There is nothing like the joy of green after white, and then a period of greyish brown.  There is nothing for small children who have lived swathed in sweaters and jackets to arise in the morning and race outside in shorts and t shirts - and some of the time even those get tossed aside, as the kids go off to play in the creek or we put on the sprinkler.

And their parents follow them.  In spring and summer, my deepest housekeeping inadequacies are on display - there’s so much to do outside, how can I possibly worry about the fact that the sink hasn’t been wiped down since the bronze age?   Who even goes into the house? After a long and uncertain spring, a period in which there were days, even weeks when it is tempting to put in the tomatoes, and yet we knew that there would still be one last frost, well, the frost came, and the forecast calls for nothing but net from now on.  

Spring here is a long period of “nope, too wet, nope too cold, nope, more wet…oh, crap gotta get everything in today!”  So out we go, Eric to dig the new garden, me to fill the beds that aren’t already crammed with plants further.  Me to haul the old straw, him to clean the barn again, me to plant the fruit trees and herbs, him to rake the beds.  We come back exhausted and filthy, no filthier than the children who have been hunting toads, climbing trees, building things, planting and hunting eggs in the barn. 

They are merely tired at the end of the day, and exhilarated, as they tell us of what they found and where they’ve been (we were there, but it doesn’t matter, the best part of life is the story it makes).  We, of course, are stiff and sore, because we’ve spent the winter being lazy.  But the reclamation of our bodies from winter, the shifting from pasty white to brown or pink, the exhaustion - these are part and parcel of happiness.

So is the sense of never getting enough done - I was in the garden 9 hours yesterday, planting and digging, lifting and hauling.  By 8pm, I could think of nothing but excuses for not doing the dishes or sorting the laundry.  Today, I could work another 9 and another and still feel that there was far more to do - but the dishes will call me…and I will resentfully come in.

In late winter, I find myself envying people for whom spring comes earlier.  But by late autumn, I always long for winter - cold, white, but merciful - time enough to return to my long neglected house for some much needed rest.  But for now, I’m a long way from wanting winter.  I have seeds galore to bestow upon the ground, and transplants calling me. I have soil and manure and mulch to tend to.  I have sun and warmth and rain to absorb, as though I too could photosynthesize.  And I wake up each morning thinking, too “how long until I can go outside?”


6 Responses to “Sunburned…and Happy”

  1. agwhon 21 May 2009 at 2:14 pm

    When I was a kid, my Mom would often (almost daily) say, “It’s a beautiful day; why don’t you go play outside?” She would say this in all kinds of weather, as long as it wasn’t actually dangerous. Now I can see that this worked almost like a subliminal message. Every day is beautiful, and I usually want to go outside!

    Your kids will remember the good times of being allowed to go out and really play and get muddy. Sorry about the housework, though. Mine tends to get “behind” when the out of doors is particularly distracting, too.

  2. Pine Ridgeon 21 May 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Oh man, am I glad that I’m not the only one with a messy house int he spring (ok, summer and fall too) Every morning now I rush to do the dishes, start some laundry and run outside to play, er, work! I am also finding it hard to make the kids to their homework when I know they have been sitting inside most of the day.

    Tonight the youngest and I are going to catch some tadpoles for her class to grow in the aquarium and release in the creek when school is out. And maybe the kids will help water the garden before they play basketball.

    And I promise them icecream BEFORE dinner if they help me tidy up the house before dh gets home from work ;)

    I love warm weather.

  3. [email protected]on 21 May 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I could have written this post, minus the kid stuff. Except that I’m not have so elegant with a turn of phrase. I long for each season too. It’s kind of nice, to be 80% of the way through one season and to look forward eagerly to the next, whichever season it happens to be. Winter makes me soft and pasty too. And the housework goes to hell in a handbasket. Then I feel guilty if my husband with a full time job cleans up the kitchen because I’m so tired and filthy that I’d only make it dirtier if I tried to clean anything.

    I am putting in my tomatoes today! No more cold overnight temps forecast. I’m just waiting another hour or two so that they don’t wilt in this heat.

  4. Laurie in MNon 22 May 2009 at 9:52 am

    I might mention that spring in the Upper Midwest is *just* as welcome as spring in the Northeast. In MN, we had the first “normal” winter in a number of years this year, at least normal as far as I can remember! It seemed to last forever, and believe me, the first really warm days of spring were sheer *heaven*. Now I just need to remember to poke in my garden much earlier next year, and see when the soil “can first be worked”. I finally got a fix on our last official freeze date, but how early the soil can be worked is still a bit of a mystery.

  5. Claireon 22 May 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Spring is as welcome in the lower Midwest … it just comes earlier, in March and April, and there is little white associated with winter. Instead we deal with 4+ months of grayish-brownish ground and anything from cool to cold temps. And sometimes freakish warmth followed by severe storms and tornadoes. And the occasional snow that rarely lasts more than a week, if that.

    We are transitioning from spring to summer. Last frost was early April this year. Peonies and roses are blooming, and we’re eating homegrown strawberries. But I still haven’t gotten the tomatoes planted. In fact I just finished planting the last of the cool-weather crops early this week. But I did clean out 2 of the 3 remaining beds, and will get the other one, the one the tomatoes go in, done and planted by the end of next week.

  6. Ginaon 24 May 2009 at 3:45 pm

    For us (in Southern California) we appreciate spring just as much but not for the post-winter warm weather, but for the pre-summer cool weather. It is really difficult to motivate myself to do any major work outside when it is 100+ degrees so we try to do everything we can anytime but summer.

    Our only problem is that as the days get longer our already lax bedtime enforcement becomes even more loose as we all (kids and adults) want to stay outside until all hints of the sun have faded to black. It’s fun at night but not so much in the morning when our son wakes up at 5:15 proclaiming “It’s light outside” after going to bed at 10:15 pm. Our neighbors probably think we are slightly insane when we are outside installing irrigation lines with a preschooler at sunrise.

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