Springtime: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

by Amy McGarry

Amy McGarry

When I saw the first crocus blossoms in front of my house this year, I almost cried tears of joy. This portent of spring is always a happy and welcomed sight. But this year, my first crocus sighting was especially rewarding.
The same day I saw my first crocus, my daughter looked at her phone and said, “Mom, it was two years ago today that we started online school from home because of COVID.”

I gasped.

Of course, I knew it had been over two years since the pandemic started. But those two years didn’t feel real to me. They felt more like a long bad dream from which I couldn’t wake up. Or more aptly, a long, dark tunnel. The longest, darkest tunnel that held no end with a light, despite all the directions I looked.
I had asked friends how long they thought the mask mandate and restrictions on gathering would last. How long would this pandemic affect our lives? Some friends predicted at least two years.

At the time, I refused to believe it. They were wiser than me. In my naïve optimism, I hoped it would be months at the most.

Fast forward to March 2022, when I learned the mask mandate would be lifted in Washington State. I hadn’t been following the news, so I didn’t know the state of the pandemic.

Really? Finally? Could this be true?

After two years of nothing but bad news, I was again in a state of disbelief. I saw a flicker of light, growing brighter and brighter leading me to the end of the dark tunnel.

What does that light represent? The dictionary confirms my own understanding with its official definition. “A long-awaited indication that a period of hardship or adversity is nearing an end.”

Now it is April. The hours of sunlight are getting minutes longer each day. We’re enjoying more and more warm and sunny days. I hear birds singing in the morning. Everyday my favorite tree has more and bigger leaves. The daffodil and tulip leaves have risen from the depths of the earth. My hyacinths bloomed last week, gifting me with the pleasure of my favorite scent. Their pink blossoms providing color to the former gray, colorless world that was winter.

Rebirth. Renewal. Growth. Hope. Spring.

Forgive me for the cliches. For springtime clichés are indeed quite profound for so many of us.

We celebrate the New Year’s Day on January 1. Yes, in January in the Inland Northwest, the days begin to get longer. January is the beginning of the coming of the light. In January, however, the nights still feel so long, the weather is still so dreary. We can expect several more months of winter.

Like so many, I made the usual New Year’s resolutions to start in January. Exercise more. Eat more vegetables. Organize clutter. Clean out the closets. Did I start working on even one of those resolutions? Not a one. I did start flossing twice a day, but that was short-lived and I’m striving to maintain my once-a-day practice. Guilt and disappointment ensued. Statistics confirm that the majority of people who start working on New Year’s Resolutions in January have quit by February.

Why didn’t I pursue those good intentions? Quite simply, I didn’t feel up to the challenge. My energy was low. My motivation even lower. I was uninspired. January offers nothing to inspire me to positive change.
But, oh, you glorious springtime! For me, springtime feels like the dawning of a new year. The green and sunshine of April magically energize and inspire me to positive changes. In January, I was still in the tunnel. The tunnel was dark and despairing. April feels like bathing in the light at the end of that long tunnel. We have arrived! We rejoice!

Now we have energy for “spring cleaning.” Now we are inspired to clear out the old and make way for new. We’re excited to remove those layers of dust collected all winter long. Deep cleaning doesn’t seem daunting. We revel in the new shine.

Spring is famous for the poetry unit in English classes. Surely, no season inspires poetry so vehemently as spring does. For spring is also the season of love. “Spring fever” sets in as youth “go wild” with spring energy coursing through their veins. But it’s not just spring energy coursing through those young veins.
We who have suspected the phenomenon of spring fever is more than folklore are spot on. Scientists have discovered the biology of spring fever. It all comes down to a chemical in our brain called dopamine. Quite simply, dopamine is the main culprit involved in falling in love. Your brain uses dopamine to make you want things.

What does this have to do with spring? According to Helen Fischer, PhD and author of five books on love, dopamine is triggered by novel experiences. “And there’s so much novelty in spring.” Color, new smells, all the novelty of spring drives up dopamine and makes you more susceptible to love.

Of course, spring weather always includes intermittent cold spells, wind, rain, and hail. Ironically, as I look out the window just now, tiny flakes of snow are swirling around the air in my front yard. This comes after I sat on my deck drinking coffee under a brilliantly shining sun just hours ago.

Unlike summer, however, with its endlessly hot, sunny days that grow tiresome to some of us, the variety of spring weather makes the warm, sunny, days all the more delicious.

Just now, I’ve looked out the window again. The snow stopped falling, giving way to brilliant sunshine again, reminding me we have arrived. We have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.