I grew up in Northern California and always proudly insisted that we, unlike our estranged So-Cal brethren, totally had seasons. Sometimes in the winter, at night, it would even dip below freezing, and there was ice on the pavement! To say that I have been disabused of this notion since moving to Pennsylvania would be to put it mildly. But the thing is, when everyone warned me about the east coast and its terrifying weather, all I got were warnings about snowfall in the winter and humidity in the summer. Nobody, nobody at all, warned me about spring.
I can’t explain spring without explaining winter. To those of you who have known about winter your whole lives: I’m sorry, but the uninitiated need to understand. For the first few weeks, winter is a sort of magical fairyland. I have pictures of me in my first real snowfall, and they shall not appear here because the look of wonder on my face, coupled with how over-bundled up I am, is in retrospect really embarrassing. But the first snow of each season is something I still respond to like an over-excited golden retriever puppy. There’s a crispness in the air that you can almost smell, and then swirls of white move across the landscape, totally transforming campus. For the first few days and nights of snowfall, we all behave like the over-sized kids we are, building snow-forts, sledding, and going on adventures during the storm.
After the first big snowfall, you realize slowly that for the next few months, you’re stuck inside most of the time if you want to keep your fingers (does anyone else have a fear of frostbite after too many hours spent playing Oregon Trail during childhood or is this just me?). There are definitely side-benefits, like when your friends all tramp over to your dorm to hang out and drink cocoa and dabble with watercolors, or the giant icicle that formed on my window this winter and lived a good life before the thaw. We named him Horace and he is pictured below in all his glory. Horace aside, however, by March I am done with winter and ready for salvation. And then, spring arrives.
Spring is not only salvation, but also a sort of Arcadia. I never understood all of that pastoral English poetry about shepherds and their lady-loves lying in the sweet grass or what have you until I saw Swarthmore in the spring. Because let me tell you, it’s something you could definitely base a whole genre of poetry on. First, the crocuses come up on the path by Wharton, then a riot of daffodils along Magill Walk. The first sunny day, no matter if it’s chilly, you’ll find a gaggle of us Swatties out on Parrish Beach, worshipping the questionable warmth of the March sun. All of your gorgeous and talented friends emerge from their cocoon of coats and wander around in shorts, reminding you that they are indeed human and not the heavily-padded caterpillars that they have been disguised as for the past few months.
But what I love about spring here isn’t the preferable aesthetics of sundresses, the crazy beauty of the arboretum in bloom, or anything so concrete. These are small blessings — the daffodils are bright markers of good things to come. Spring to me is about change, about possibilities, about lying back in the sun and letting the future wash over you without fear. Because between all that sunbathing and running around, Swatties are awaiting news, be it grad school admissions, job offers, acceptance into their major, internship decisions, or summer funding. We are waiting, and then we hear: the world shifts, for better or for worse. There is a sense, on the whole, that anything can happen, that you have cast your lot into a cosmic lottery.
We’ve been taught to fear uncertainty, but spring at Swarthmore is an exercise in thriving in its midst. When you wander among the clumps of Swatties sitting on Parrish Beach, you’ll find us braiding daisy crowns, doing readings, playing music, laughing. There is a contentment to the simple act of sitting with the people you love in the warm spring sun that washes away fears of the future, if only for a while. And this, to me, is the best part about spring, and about Swarthmore in general: it encourages you to enjoy the journey, even when the destination is unclear. Winter leaves when we need warmth most; spring pushes us out of the libraries, the dorms, and lets us gather together to breathe and laugh and argue together. There is a sense of being suddenly surrounded by friends, and it is a joyous one.
It is these friends and this sense of community which sustains us, keeps us steady. My freshman year, after I learned my May birthday was smack in the middle of finals week, I decided not to have a celebration. Everyone, I thought, would be far too stressed to have any fun at all. So when a friend asked me to meet her by the bell tower, I didn’t think much of it. Upon arrival, I was blindfolded, and led in all sort of directions. When we stopped walking and the blindfold came off, I found myself in Crum Meadow, surrounded by my friends, a picnic, and flickering tea-light candles. We stayed out there for hours, finals and papers forgotten. I can’t tell you what we talked about, I’ve forgotten, but in the pictures we are all smiling too wide, our eyes wild, and you can almost hear us laughing. In the middle of the chaos of finals, I felt so full of life and love for these crazy people who had over the course of the year become my family.
That seems a long time ago, now. The couples in those pictures have broken up, new friends have come and gone. But just a few days ago, I was walking out of Parrish, having just filed the paperwork to finalize my summer funding to study Shakespeare in London. The air was warm but not yet humid, and on the green grass ahead of me I saw all sorts of people sitting and talking and just being together. I took a breath and let the sense of possibilities wash over me. Now more than ever, I am unsure what I will be doing in a year, two years, five years, ten. But here, in the spring air surrounded by friends, I cannot help but be excited rather than scared, thrilled to be moving forward into uncharted territory. Spring is beginning and endings all at once, but in this Arcadia of daffodils and trees and good company, there is a sense of golden immortality, of sureness and good that will survive all storms that the future holds. We may be venturing forward, but spring at Swarthmore always, always, makes me feel like good things are just around the corner.