Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring loaded

More cute photos like these at
The appeal of perpetual spring is undeniable, particularly as an adult after a few afternoons spent on the couch unclenching your back after shoveling snow off your roof.  But even though the relative warmth and cheeriness of spring can bring visions of Phoenix or Boca Raton, know that warming is not warmth, and to seek out this transitional state in perpetuity is folly.

This is not true, of course, if you have never known anything but spring. If this is the case, you will define your seasons not by the new rustling of life around you or by dramatic changes in temperature or by pretty girls in short skirts, but rather by whether it’s generally rainy in the morning, or whether you wear long sleeves or short. It is a simpler life with a smaller wardrobe and no need to change your tires twice a year.

For those raised amidst the changing seasons, however, life becomes more complex and, until retirement, you find your body may even need the environmental cues provided by the seasons. Summer is a time of work and movement and production and expression; autumn of slowing, planning, preparing; winter of rest, contemplation, introspection; and spring of thawing, rebirth, revitalization. Of them all, I think the greatest contrast appears to us between winter and spring. And so it is that spring seems so much more warm and pleasant and rich than it really is. Who wouldn’t want to live forever in that rich and soul-stirring environment?

Well, after living with a bunch of kvetching retirees who had just that idea, we know exactly who wouldn’t. But we were only in Cuenca for just over a year, and we found that we wouldn’t want to either. What better concrete example of the necessity of balance, of yin/yang, of The Force than getting what you always thought you wanted, and nothing more? The beauty and wonder and awakening of spring is, for those of us raised with it, so remarkable and exhilarating precisely because it is so fleeting and in such contrast to the season it expels.

Spring is breaking out of the chrysalis of winter, shedding the skin of the past, beating off the dust of lethargy, breathing life back into the dull, brown, brittle, bits of our closeted winter souls. I had posited in an earlier post about some differences I saw in Ecuadorian culture being perhaps related to the lack of seasons. That was more related to the lack of need for planning and preparation in moving into the colder seasons. But I wonder also whether the relative calm and imperturbable demeanor of highland Ecuadorians is also related to having no environmental inspiration to stir, wake, stretch, explore…grow! We seasonal people, by contrast, are emotional, passionate…moody.

Despite our technological mastering of our environment, we humans remain deeply connected to the rhythms of life. In highland Ecuador, though, where spring is eternal, that rhythm is more a hum than a beat. This is no criticism; as I said before, for us it was a realization that, since we grew up along with four very sharply defined seasons, we don't just need those seasons to feel right about ourselves, we are in some senses defined by them. Our song, poetry, emotion, our subconscious rhythms—quite possibly even our DNA—are direct products of these seasonal patterns. And the same is true for highland Ecuadorians, but the rhythms are fundamentally different.

So as we before lamented missing one of the biggest ski seasons in Vail's history, while returning for one of the worst ever, we are reminded that a bad ski season generally means a freaking righteous, warm, beautiful, glorious spring. And so it is this year. And if you wondered just how moody and impetuous we can be, after a lamenting a nearly snowless March with temperatures in the 50s and 60s destroying our ski hills, we have the gall to bitch about an approaching snowstorm that threatens our budding tans.


  1. Well, well said Matt!
    Those of us who exist in a challenging environment are, for reasons of survival, wired for conflict and espouse challenge in all things.
    We are not born with this wiring but rather learn it as we strive to survive in the challenge.
    Once these survival lessons are learned they become temporarily part of us.
    Should we spend five years in Ecuador, or anywhere else tranquil by environment, we would again revert to a more steady, humming, self-assured existence than that of the common American or Western European.
    We are a harried culture never fulfilling our souls. Our drive to survive keeps us forever unnerved.

  2. I wondered, while I was there, Ed, whether the more docile cultures aren't always inevitably destroyed or controlled by more aggressive ones. A bit of a depressing thought, but a real conversation starter.

  3. Yep, think of the Caribs of the Caribbean islands, the Incas, the Malays. The list goes on and on. The only exception I can think of are the Thai. They always invited the conquerors to assimilate with their beautiful women. Since the conquerors didn't harbor polio or pox, they survived. Throughout eons, Darwin was, and is, right. You witnessed the Mestizo contra Los Indios in Ecuador. The conflict(s) continue ad infinitum.
    Then there's the living stage of nature and microbiology.
    Thankfully Colorado is a peaceful, tranquil location on the planet. Rather like Ecuador's sister in the north.
    - Ed

  4. Heh. Yep, Colorado's great, ever since we got rid of those pesky natives.