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April 16, 2011

Rights of Spring

Rights of Spring

By Brunonia Barry

I’ve never understood why the New Year starts on January 1st, right at the height of winter instead of in the spring. What’s new about it? Here in New England, January, February, and usually all of March are more of the same old same old: more cold, more snow, more ice, more darkness. I understand that the winter solstice means that the days are getting longer, and we’ve turned the corner on winter, but you’d never know it by looking at our heating bills. If we’ve turned a corner, it must be a blind one, because on January 1st, spring is nowhere in sight. Usually there isn’t a hint of spring until early April, and even then we get the occasional freak snowstorm sent our way to remind us not to get too giddy just yet. 

In Salem, we are not a giddy people, but there are certain signs of spring that lighten our mood. These signs have nothing to do with flowers and robins, but they do have to do with birds of a different feather: snowbirds. I have come to believe that every seasonal business in New England is run by people who winter in Florida. And who can blame them? In any case, those snowbird businesses are now coming back, and the signs are everywhere. Here’s one of my favorites:

Lobster Shanty sign

The opening of the Lobster Shanty not only heralds spring in Salem, it does so with perfect New England attitude.

It’s 61 degrees today, and everyone’s out on the streets, high fiving each other with the attitude of survivors. We survived another New England winter, one of the worst in memory. We shoveled snow almost every day of the week, first when it fell from the sky, next when it fell from our roofs. In some cases, we even shoveled those roofs. We spread salt, then rethought the environmental implications and shoveled sand. If we have attitude, we have friggin’ well earned it. You want a lobster? Get it your own damned self!

It’s a good thing that the tourists don’t start showing up in Salem until mid May. They find us a whole lot more hospitable by late spring. By that time, we have almost forgotten the three-day storms, the stocking up on food, the fighting for shoveled out parking spaces. By the time those heralded May flowers arrive along with the emerald green lawns and the blooming dogwood, the cutting ocean wind has turned into gentle ocean breeze. We have all but forgotten those February vows of “Not one more winter!”

But it isn’t May yet. It is only April. And though we finally know that spring has come, we don’t quite trust it. I still remember the Nor’easter that dumped 14 inches of snow on us one April 23rd. I’m not going to tempt the imps by making some kind of declaration that the worst is over. Even though I think it probably is, I will never utter those words aloud.

So, in the spirit of Patriot’s Day and those contrarians who fought for independence from their oppressors, I will (with all apologies to Stravinsky) declare independence from the oppression of winter by proclaiming my. . . 


1.The right not to have our front vestibule look like a sand, salt, shovel, and gravel storage room.

2.The right to immediately get in my car and drive without having to warm it up and scrape the windshield for 15 minutes.

3.The right not to have to wear a thick sweater, a turtle neck, a waffle T-shirt, and six scarves under a down jacket that makes me look like the Michelin Man.

4.The right to actually leave the thermostat where my husband sets it and not sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to crank up the heat.

5.The right to drink my tea with ice.

6.The right not to grab onto walls, fences, sign posts, parked cars, fire hydrants and random passersby in an effort to stay upright while walking down the street.

7.The right to see the sun after 3:30 PM.

8.The right not to have my nose turn red and start to run whenever I step out the front door.

9.The right not to cause myself a medical emergency when I can’t locate my hat, scarf, and/or gloves.

10.The right to happily say “It’s too hot out here. I think I’ll go back inside where it’s cool.”


Those are my Rights of Spring. What are yours?



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Getting in the car and it is warm from the sun being out. I sit there for a minute and just enjoy.

Going for a walk to admire the lovely blossoms and smell the lovely fragrance.

And kids playing outside at playgrounds!

The first smell of freshly cut lawn.

Leaving the blinds open and have natural light come in my home well past 7 p.m.

One by one, taking winter blankets off the bed.

Opening the windows to air out my apartment.

Love that Lobster Shanty sign!

My best "right of spring" back home was to skip school and sun bathe on the rocks at Crocker Park. I was only caught once. It was okay , though, because it was by Mr. Aksnes. He was the exchange teacher from Norway, and he needed a babysitter that night. He forgot to pay me. And he never told.

Now in Tucson my right of spring is to check for rattlesnakes and killer bees. Oh wait. That's not fun. Okay, how about the right to fly around the neighborhood on my chair with the cool breeze blowing my Vines shorts every which way - Kendall at my side, his madras bandana flapping behind as we both wonder why did we ever leave that rocky shore.

Gaylin... oh for a lawn again!

"Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way" and that is what our weather is right now..perfect. It's a meteorologists dream, here in Southern California. All the weather man has to do is adjust the temperature readings slightly and announce that yes we will have a cold front replaced by a low front or a high front and there we are beautiful spring days.
The days are longer, the heat has not arrived and the flowers are blooming everywhere.
Flowers can bloom all year around here but there is something about the spring light that makes the blooms sparkle.
And I do love that Shanty sign. My DH was a lobster fisherman starting at twelve years old and knows all about the early cold mornings of catching lobster with his dad before he went to school.

Here in the Old South our winters are pretty similar to Yankee springs. Since I had to mow the yard on Thanksgiving and St. Valentine’s Day, there is no love there.

Here’s what we look forward to in Charleston.

1. The beginning of Hurricane Season. We only get clobbered about once every 50 years but it gives everyone something to bitch about other than stupid politicians. Believed me, SC has cornered the market on stupid politicians. This week we been regaled with “Reenactments” of the shelling of Ft. Sumter 150 years ago that marked the beginning of the Civil War. To me this is pretty much like the Boston Red Sox doing reenactments of Bill Buckner’s fielding and Bucky Dent’s hitting. I wonder if these clowns noticed the lack of African-Americans in the crowd?

Speaking of baseball; here is a little known fact. Abner Doubleday, the inventor of the game, was at Ft. Sumter when the shelling started.

2. The Spoleto Festival is just around the corner. Three weeks with the arts is slice of heaven on earth.

3. The ocean is warm enough to actually swim in.

4. The Cooper River Bridge Run.

5. The “snow birds” start heading north.

6. Middletown Place’s Botanical Garden goes from spectacular to simply unbelievable.

7. The young ladies from the College of Charleston sunning themselves in the grass at Marion Square. A few years ago some local politicians tried to ban this rite of spring. Like I said, SC politicians are all idiots.

8. The return of the alligator to the lake in my backyard after hibernating all winter or, as we like to call it, January.

9. The reopening of all of the Farmer’s Markets.

10. With a presidential election only a year and half away and South Carolina an early primary state, we’re starting to see the influx of idiot politicians from other parts of the country to “test the waters”. As Jack Nicholson put it so well, “Go sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all stocked up here.”

It's freak snowstorm day here in eastern Iowa.

If it were warm and sunny, however, I would be celebrating the right to not wrangle two small kids into vast expanses of outerwear... Now that we've seen some warm days I really hate going back to coat weather!

The right to get drunk on azaleas, wisteria, dogwoods and jasmine. To watch the gardenia buds swelling. To set out tender tomato and zinnia plants with their promise of summer abundance. The right to start bitching about the heat and humidity.

It is St. Louis, so the first sign of spring is around
April 1, the start of baseball season. The old greats and the beer wagon at the stadium, all is well with the world. Better still if they win the home opener (not this year).

The right to drive with the windows open. Summer and 140 degree car seats are only a few weeks away, enjoy while you can. The corollary to this: Time to remember/dream of convertibles. Followed shortly by the reminder that you do not live in a convertible friendly neighborhood.

Young women and short skirts. Check them out now before the colleges empty out for the summer.

Tomato planting. Followed closely by cursing the squirrel season.

The first trip to Ted Drewes. Tradition!

First, let me say that I am right there with you, Brunonia, on waiting 'til May to declare Spring...we in the Midwest get those late season "snow showers" and "ice events" every so often; several times on Easter (early or late, doesn't matter).We're having a "rain event" this weekend though...tornado watches and warnings last night and gloom today, so perhaps Spring on the prairie is here. My rights are as follows :o)
1) Driving down a country road and seeing the farmers out in the fields
2) Switching storm windows for screen (combination windows) so I can get the breezes and spring smells
3) Smelling the clean air after the rain
4) Drinking more iced tea than hot tea even though iced tea is an Illinois staple all year round
5) Searching for lightweight clothes for work...because the A/C at the store doesn't 'officially come on until May...or so it seems.
6) Getting my car washed by the first high school group to hold a car wash or
7) Taking my car to the car wash that has actual people rinse and dry and clean tires
8) Making the trek to Jarlings, the local soft custard venue
9) Telling Chuck NOT to plan 15 tomato plants and the same number of zucchini plants...we are only two people and I don't can anymore.
10) Watching all my favorite authors' new books hit the shelves at the same time :o)
11) Getting serious about walking. I don't do treadmills well and am not a fan of mall walking, so warmer weather is when I pull out the serious walking shoes and decide which park to explore.

Happy (almost) Spring :o) We're heading out today to do errands and then a friend and I are attending a local HS Mexican Fiesta complete with Mariachi band and silent auction...it's fundraising time for the band!

What beautiful imagery! That and the appearance of hundreds of blue flowers in our backyard this morning have made me much less grumpy. Thanks so much.

Rod, I just missed the Spoleto Festival last year. It's on my life list.

Reine, We had the same childhood except that when I skipped school I stupidly went to Devereux Beach and, of course, got caught. I should have headed up to Crocker Park.

Here in Wisconsin, we're cautiously crossing our fingers and hoping that the drizzle stays liquid. While I hate winter - freezing, sloppy, slippery, snow impeded winter - I am also not fond of summer. I don't like to sweat, and I start sweating at 72 degrees. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons because I can usually find a few beautiful, comfortable days. Today is the first right of spring in my town. We have the right to pick over each others' no longer useful stuff and pay ridiculously low prices for it. Yep, it's city-wide rummage sale day. Hey, don't knock it. I found a beautiful 50 year old single owner Necchi sewing machine - in a cabinet - for $2. That's a major score.

To me spring arrives in New Hamphshire when I hear the peepers singing out in the night. It happened last week for the first time this season. The trees are budding and the bulbs are sending shoots up out of the ground but the sound of peepers is what what makes me smile. And like Rod we too have already seen too many idiot politicians campaigning.

Oh dear, oh dear. What Marie said. I'm just trying not to whine about yesterday being in the 90's, and I just signed up to have my AC filter changed. I actually woke up today wondering how many days until the summer solstice, because I love fall and winter best, love the feeling of the dark coming earlier, the nights growing longer.

Spring has sprung and in L.A., there's always the feeling of not having really earned it.

Growing up in Maine, it never felt like spring until Dad put The Scoop to the back of the barn (which he always did with a long face--the man who loves his snow and shovelling) and then we could all feel secure that winter was indeed done. But the truest indicator was the switching of the clocks. Only then could everyone release their breath in unison, it seemed.

Now that I live in NC, I have come to take those cues for granted--here, spring arrives so blessedly early, the buds on the trees, the longer days. But, boy, do I still miss those passing whiffs of blooming lilacs...

Oh Brunonia, you have made me long for spring. We just don't get that lovely season here in the high desert. It's either winter or summer; and the battle between those seasons usually holds off until Memorial Day. Only a fool plants a garden here before the lilacs bloom at the end of May. And even then it's a risky proposition as June nights are apt to dip below freezing. Old timers talk of the year they woke to six inches of snow on the 4th of July. It all melted in time for the celebration but it's brought up frequently to illustrate to flatland transplants (as I am) that here winter does not respect the calender and a few nice days are definitely not a promise of more to come.

It's such a glorious spring in Cincinnati right now. It could be because of having such a cold winter, but whatever the reason, it's lovely and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. And I reserve the right to do so!

Thanks for the timely and evocative blog today, Brunonia.

Beautiful! May apples have spread their umbrellas under the trees, the trees have a beautiful lace of new leaves and some dogwood and redbud flowers, tulips and jonquils are blooming, and the irises are getting buds. The birds look happy, not even begging me for food, since there is plenty out there, and I've heard frogs chirping! It is really, truly spring!

Of course, I'd love it even more if someone would solve the allergy problem . . .

Lovely posts, and so evocative. Suddenly I remember all those New England winters, and I am seriously ambivalent about our Northern California winters. On the coast, it's rainy or foggy or sunny-all year long. But pretty.

Mary, the may apples spreading their umbrellas and the lace of the new leaves...just beautiful!

Carol, the high desert battle between the seasons, so wonderfully dramatic!

I love to hear all the variations of spring. Thanks so much for sharing, everyone.

I miss the Lilacs and Peonies!!

The daffs, followed by the tulips, then the dogwood, and then the right to get giddy smelling the lilacs. I inhale them, even though I am sneezing and blowing my nose within 30 minutes of doing so. Lilacs are irresistable to me.

Brunonia, I was very fortunate to have gotten tremendously sick on a hotdog from the old stand at Devereaux Beach one summer. After that It was strictly Crocker Park and its float for me. Just the memory of what that hotdog did to my insides kept me away from them - and Devereaux - for another 10 years. Besides it was a quick-escape sprint up the hill and across Front Street to the house. Not that Mr. Herreshoff would ever tell. No, he needed Uncle Jean too much. And Uncle Jean would have been too embarrassed. Nope. I was safe from the Herreshoff eyes.

Marblehead Forever

I'm with Marie and Mary about the lilacs. I'm addicted. We have three bushes in our back yard, and I'll be filling the house with blossoms, then sneezing for days!

Reine, which hot dog place at Devereaux were you talking about? My dad and I Ioved the hot dogs at the little one (Timmy's I think it was called). I was lucky I never got sick from them. I did once eat a bad batch of fried clams down there though. It didn't keep me from the beach, but I gave up fried clams for a number of years. Oh, I remember Mr. Herreshoff!

Definitely Timmy's! We couldn't have known each other, could we? Do you remember the Barnacle when it was really like a barnacle on the rocks by the fort?

PS: If you can get the owner of the old card shop, now bookstore, to make it wheelchair accessible, I'll come say hello at your next visit there. Then I can go indie, as I would so very much like to.


I do remember the Barnacle like that. And those steps are tough. I can barely climb them. I know they're knocking down the building that used to be the Warwick, and they're maybe redoing the store a bit, so perhaps they'll have better access. I feel as if I know you, even if it's not true. If you don't come to Marblehead, I'll make sure I get to Tucson. I've been several times, just not lately. The old YMCA building is gone too, but it's going to be a park, so that's okay.

It would be great to see you in Tucson. And of course it would be really great if the bookstore were accessible. The Warwick being torn down? My first real date with a boy was at the Warwick. At the time we lived around the corner on Rowland-- great memories. And the YMCA? There was a tiny park there in that little triangle space next door. I remember it really well, because I had my first seizure there. Tommy Roche's wake was across the way. I was in marching band - or was it the Oko's fife and drum (with bagpipes) corps, and please tell me you weren't a Gerry supporter - and we had marched over there for some holiday, or firemen's muster, or something. Park will be nice, but I did love that Y. I used to hang out at the old Barnacle until the dishwasher made me one of those sailor's knot bracelets, and my grandfather pulled my clam roll allowance. Oh for a clam roll. Let me warn you - they don't know what fried clams are here in Tucson, so you'll have to bring your own. BYOFC?

Will airport security let you through with fried clams?

I'll bring the fried clams and see if they let me through. Funny, I did try to bring them back once when I lived in LA, but cold or reheated clams aren't nearly as good. How about a roast beef sandwich from Bill and Bob's?


Oh yeah. They have to be fried. It's steamers aren't allowed.

BILL AND BOB'S FAMOUS! Oh yeah... Friends forever, for certain.

The year used to start in March, November and December have names denoting they are 9th and 10th months. Don't know why or when it changed.

Signs of spring here, our little pedio cacti which are little balls about an inch an a half in diameter bravely put out 3 or 4 pretty flowers each an inch or more in diameter. It's also about time for the hummingbirds to return.

I have very fond memories of Salem in March. It was the first place I took my soon to be wife on our very first date. It was a very beautiful day in so many ways.

Al, you are such a romantic! It's wonderful . . .
My only trip to Salem was with my niece Jillian (my-favorite-don't-tell-the-others) with many Boston-area shore excursions to choose from, she opted for Salem, and it was interesting. We kept saying we'd like to go back on Halloween (but maybe not?)

Brunonia, I applaud all your rights of spring, and have little to add (I used to live in Wisconsin and remember the sheer euphoria of venturing out of the office at noon without a jacket on the first day the temperature rose above 60!).
But, since living in Santa Monica these many years, I have one I never expected to have:
the right to grab every possible moment in the spring sun when there's no fog or inversion layer. Nobody told me before I moved here that beach cities don't get much sun until late summer . . . . But, today, joyous in the sun.
Marie's right about the beauties of spring in SoCal, but it has been so windy lately that only today did I catch repeated breaths of balmy air scented by wisteria and bouganvilla: so grateful.

very nice, i think you will like this moncler jacket http://www.monclershower.com/Moncler-Down-Jacket-Branson-Navy-Black

I love Salem. I was born there. Partly raised there. Family goes way back. Just wish we could lose the "Witch City" thing.

March makes more sense, Al. I love the image of the brave cacti.

I miss Los Angeles many times during the year for the weather and the easy going lifestyle. I didn't live at the beach though. I was in Los Feliz or Laurel Canyon.

Salem is my home in more ways than I ever knew. But next January will see me visiting friends in Los Angeles and working my way up the coast to Occidental where I lived in my late hippie days. The cure for the New England winter is simple. Get out. But you can bet I'll be back in Salem by spring.

How wonderful! Ah..the right it take a deep breath..and it smells like new grass and magnolias and ocean and blue sky and sunshine.

oh, I miss lilacs- tried planting them and lily of the valley here and it's just too hot. Tulips have come and gone, peonies are budding, dogwood is waning. Soon, I'll be complaining that it's way too hot and humid, and be wishing for the cool fall. But for now, the windows are open and the birds wake me up a tad too early. Love the sign, I will adapt for my house.

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