A Few Warm Days Put Spring in His Step

When I was a boy, the arrival of warm weather always meant freedom. As soon as the first mild breezes started unfurling along our streets, I knew I was free to walk to school in a short-sleeved shirt, free to change to shorts as soon as school was out, free to stay out later and toss the baseball around with friends on warm evenings.

Now, years later, as my place on earth once again rolls closer to the sun's heat, I still sense freedom wherever I turn. The sky, for instance, slowly grows free of winter's cumbersome grayness. It's as though the pleasant days signal the sky to shake off its chains, and the sky responds by spreading a luxurious blueness over us. There's sometimes a look of majesty in the spring sky: In April and May, some of the year's grandest clouds march in review across our town, and even the wispy ones move in a stately way, like the ships of a king.

I feel freedom, too, in the frisky breezes of spring. If I leave my house in the morning burdened with cares, often, just then, a breeze will run past with happiness in its touch. They're also friendly to flags. Even a modest April breeze can start a flag waving to everyone, as if it's enjoying the weather. (On a contrary note - in my neighborhood, of late, the breezes have seemed almost uncivil in their freedom. One of my cats was blown across the lawn like a little calico ship.)

These days of warmth have freshened the handsome river that runs by my house, and lately the water's been surging past my dock as though it's thrilled to be free.

Yesterday I sat down there and watched the water driving by with its load of old leaves, sticks, and assorted debris from storms. Somehow the river seemed reckless and adventurous. There was a boldness in the way the water rushed past me, pushing downstream to the falls just below my house, where it pours over with great sprays and shouts.

Later, as I was falling asleep, I listened to the falls. I imagined the water roaring in happiness over the dam, delighted to be out of winter's arms and racing once again for the sea.

As a teacher, I feel freedom sprouting up all around me in my middle-school classroom. The girls feel free to cry more over sad poems and lost boyfriends; the boys feel free to toss lacrosse balls across the room when I'm writing homework assignments on the board; and last week, I felt free to loosen my tie, skip a few steps, and sing a Robert Burns poem to the class. (The students felt free to roll their eyes.)

My teaching seems less restrained in the spring, as if all the reasons why I love my work are blowing like a breeze past my heart again. These soothing days I smile even when a lesson flops, and my thoughts are good-natured even when I'm toiling among eighth-graders, the most restive and spring-feverish humans on earth.

Which reminds me: My written words get that wild, springy feeling, too, when days turn warm. They spread across the page like bluebirds going home, searching for places to nest, searching for other words to make a cozy essay with.

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