Waiting on Spring: March's Lesson

Posted by Scott Allenby

03/15/2018

All the non-weather related signs of spring are here. You can hear birds chirping above the soft dripping of sap into buckets hung on sugar maples around campus. Daylight has reclaimed the early evening hours it abandoned back in November. Spring athletic teams have dispersed around the country for spring training trips. Andover’s annual town meeting has come and gone with the usual small town issues that remind us of the importance of the greater community in which we live. It feels as though spring should be here, but Mother Nature has other plans this March, and, once again, a powerful lesson in patience is bestowed upon us as we hurry up and wait for spring to arrive.

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Having lived my entire life in northern New England, you would think I would have come to grips with the realities of the month of March in New Hampshire: the tease of brief thaws before snow storms, more snow storms, and mud. Perhaps it is just our way of dealing with the long tail of winter in our neck of the woods, but at the first hint of spring, we erase our long-term memory of years past and expect THIS year to be different. This year, spring is going to come early and the baseball field (above) will be ready for our home opener on April 4.

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A quick look through our social media feed from last year reminds us Winter Storm Stella hammered campus in 2017 with over a foot of snow on this date (March 15), just as back-to-back Nor’easters Quinn and Skylar did this past week. We want to believe this year is the worst ever, but in reality, it is par for the course, just another snowy March in New Hampshire.

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Last week, I wrote a blog (read it here) specifically for accepted students that contained five pieces of advice in identifying which school will be the right fit for them. One of the points I made in the piece was the need to love where you live and to embrace winter with all you have. The alternative is to resent each season and the unexpected (or expected) trials it brings. Reflecting on this advice as I shoveled more snow off the driveway this morning, I realized it’s not just loving where you live that is important. It is seeking the lessons of each season that allows us to stay positive in the midst of a string of March Nor’easters.

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Each month has its own personality. January and February can be long and grueling at times, but we expect that (read Social Science Department Chair Geoff Sahs poignant piece on Punctuated Equilibrium and January here). April brings the gradual greening of grass, the final snow piles melting into a gravely mess on the north side of buildings, and a real sense of hope for the summer ahead. May explodes with green, black flies, and the anticipation of graduation. The gradual ebb and flow of summer pulses through June, July, and August before hints of red, orange, and yellow on trees signal another changing of the season with September’s arrival. October is pure bliss in New England, while the gray of November prepares our souls for the long winter ahead that begins in earnest in December.

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But March, March is a tough one. It wants to provide light at the end of the tunnel, but can't quite let go without a fight. It feels the need to repeatedly teach us the importance of patience, and for this we should be grateful. We must relearn it's lesson each year; that it is not our timing that matters, but that of a greater power. The more we want something, the more we must put our desires within the context of the world around us. Having naturally cleared and melted playing fields before the start of the season would nice, but how important is that in relation to the struggles of individuals facing terror, starvation, and violence in Yemen, Syria, and other war-torn communities around the world? Seems pretty silly to worry about spring's arrival when placed in that context, doesn't it? 

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The lesson we must take from March is to stop thinking about ourselves and what we want, and to start thinking about those around us. Spring will come, it always does. It will snow again before spring arrives (usually on Revisit Day). It always does. Our senseless worry about weather patterns detracts from our ability to positively impact the world around us. So put aside your worry about when spring weather will arrive, and take action to positively impact the world around you.

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