It’s hard to say what the best thing about New York City is when spring finally rolls around. The return of ankle-tie espadrilles and strappy sandals and swingy skirts! The return of tight tank tops! The return of the-street-is-my-living-room culture that is delicious for a voyeur like me! The return of my suit coats and sports jackets, as opposed to the heavy, dense, thick winter coats! The Community-Supported Agriculture that is right around the corner! The summer fruits and vegetables! The hundreds of summer outdoor freebies all around the city, like concerts in Central Park and the Opera and the Philharmonic in Prospect Park, and movies in Bryant Park and under the Brooklyn Bridge! There is much to be grateful for in this season’s changing, all of those are such a welcome change from the winter and early year’s doldrums.
This is my fourth spring in New York City, and finally I can see the nature around me. I spent the first three saying, “I can tell the seasons are changing, but the only thing that gives it away is that the fashion on the streets and in the shop windows have changed.” The weather is the same. Today, it’s in the dreary 50s, white-clouded sky and drizzly rain that surely the trees and plants and flowers are drinking up gladly. When the sun rolls around again in the end of the week, all those little buds I’ve been watching sprout for week are going to pop open and greet the warmth.
The fashion changes, the people change, the folks on the subway retire their winter coats and break out their high-heeled rain boots and gorgeously expensive ridiculous $50 MoMa umbrellas (like the one I've been coveting for years, that my girlfriend Kristen bought for me for my recent 31st birthday), and we start planning events, readings, potlucks, parties, brunches, happy hours, dinners, lunches—any sorts of excuses to get together with friends and remember that the light is returning.
My roommate and girlfriend are both from Texas. They revel in the 70-degree days that, sure as anything, are signs that the summer is coming. Me, being from Alaska, I start sweating, start noticing that my black tee shirts are warming up quicker than any other part of me, and I start getting grumpy. I hate feeling sweaty. I hate the way it makes my skin feel. I hate taking two showers a day to feel clean. I hate the frigid iciness of the ever-present air conditioning once Memorial Day and the official start of tourist season gets going. I even hate the glare of the sun—ouch, my sensitive eyes!—I get blinded, like I can't see anything. I keep my sunglasses with me at all times, even in the winter, perhaps especially during the winter, when the sun is low low low to the ground and that winter glare is just as harsh.
Every time the weather peeks up above 70, I get a little nervous. Oh, god. Brace yourself, Sin. Another summer is heading your way. Quick, stock up on popsicles and prosecco. Quick, toss the THREE air conditioners back into your apartment windows. (It really is worth the investment. I’ve never been one for air conditioning, but it has become essential to my Summer Survival.)
Technically, May Day, the ancient pagan holiday formerly known as Beltane, is the official start of summer in the pagan Wheel of the Year. In the words of writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was a time of “unashamed human sexuality.” It is a holiday of flowers and buds, greenery and fertility. Perhaps that’s why all the sex blogs seem lubed up and rarin’ to go these days, hmm ...
In the rainforest of my hometown, in Southeast Alaska, the forecast this week is rain, rain, rain, 40-50 degrees, grey clouds, and more rain, every single day. But this is essential: See, it is a rainforest. And just about now the sides of the mountain will be positively glistening from the moisture, even when it’s not raining. The mountains seep wetness. It may not quite be warm enough for the buds to be greening and bursting forth yet, but that will happen soon. Local horticulturalists used to joke that there were only two seasons there: winter and summer, and the transitions between the two, fall and spring, happen nearly overnight.
The last time I was home in the early summer, the lushness of the mountainsides was breathtaking. After spending a few years in Colorado, practically a desert in comparison, and in the Pacific Northwest, also lush but much more spread out, so you are not nearly as surrounded by it, engulfed by it, the vibrancy and greenery of my hometown struck me as so intensely erotic. So intensely sexual, even: all this wetness. All this moisture dripping from these baby buds, ready to burst open at the first ray of sunshine that broke through the ever-present cloud cover. All that lush greenery, petals unfolding, leaves uncurling, spreading open, eager for light and sunshine and warmth and heat.
Finally, this year, instead of clocking the fashion on the street or the weather equipment in the subways, I’ve been watching the leaves, the trees, the flowers. Perhaps it is because this is the first time my primary residence is in Brooklyn, instead of commuting in to Manhattan five days a week (and sometimes more). I’ve already been to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and out to the north shore of Long Island for a weekend camping with my fierce blooming girlfriend, Kristen.
Though the magnolias are dropping their petals now, and pretty much over, every time we drove past a magnolia tree that producing blossoms bigger than my hand or more copious than my Jamesons on ice after a long week, I pointed them out: “Look! Another star magnolia!” Or, “Did you see that saucer magnolia? Beautiful!” It wasn't just the magnolias, either. Flowering trees of all kinds are still a wonder to me, being much too tropical for Southeast Alaska, even the lush rainforest I was used to. Flowers, sure—but flowers grow on the ground, trees grow high into the sky. To put those two together still seems magical. And the tulips! The lilacs, which are just now starting to bloom! The rhododendrons, the azaleas, the ginkgo trees and their beautiful little fan-like leaves. I can’t stop noticing, can't stop pointing out every tree, every amazing flower, every bud that becomes a leaf to burst forth and suck in sunlight with its photosynthetic magic.
It’s spring in New York City, all right. And I finally see the natural world all around me, after four and a half years of searching, searching, searching. This time of year, with this much lusciousness, all I can do is sit back and watch, and wonder, and feel like my sight has finally returned, after a long cold winter, and feel my own desire growing strongly from somewhere deep.
“Because the world is round, it turns me on,” after all.