I stood in the drafty barn so giddy I didn’t even realize my face was stuck in a smile and had been for the last 5 minutes. Surrounded by my classmates, slightly out of breath from the sprint from the academic area of campus to the farm, we watched the weak lamb wet with blood and amniotic fluid only seconds old, quiver to life as it was affectionately cleaned by its mother. Only minutes later we would watch the newborn lamb take its first shaky steps. In a week it was prancing around the sheep pen following its mother and frolicking with the other lambs. But someone already wrote about the magic of seeing birth before your eyes. The birth of the lambs is only a part of the season I have missed for the past two years in sunny California with its predictable and constant temperate weather. Spring is the hallmark of new life and warmer weather. The end of the dread of winter and the precursor to the hot lazy days of summer. Spring has taken on a whole new meaning in this environment where there is snow that melts and animals that come out of hibernation.
Living in New Jersey for most of my life I thought I knew what seasons meant. I came back from Spring Break ready to break out my favorite shorts and liberate my arms burdened all winter with layers of fleece, wool and down. Thus I shoveled the pathway from my cabin to the dining hall in disbelief when in the first week of April half a foot of fresh snow blanketed the ground. I had gone through elementary school with the phrase “March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” I was unprepared for wonky weather in April. Luckily I had decided to keep my snow pants around. But each day of sunshine that tips the thermometer over 45 degrees is savored. I looked back at my wearing-a-windbreaker-in-60 degrees-days the last few years with shame. 60 degrees is tropical, perfect weather for throwing a frisbee on the quad or kicking a soccer ball on the lower field, as many students do.
“Look!” I stopped abruptly on my way in between classes wondering what was happening. “The tulips grew!” I looked down relieved, and in awe of the sturdy green stems poking out of the moist earth, the more developed plants already with pastel colored petals. As the natural around us is busy blooming and coming out of its winter slumber, things in the semester are winding down. In this world of new beginnings we’re trying not to think of the end looming closer. Classes wrapped up this week, with only a Natural History final left for academics until senior year. A week of independence as we work on HEC projects until the final days of the semester, a trip up north and Family Weekend.
I can’t say I’ve never missed the weather in California. As temperatures remained in the 40’s even as April turned to May, I have thought longingly of shorts and tank tops. Overpowering any desire for hotter days however, is a gratefulness for the chance to enjoy spring. This past week as the sun dipped and the sky darkened later than ever before in the semester, I along with two other students did barn check, closing the doors on the chicken pens, feeding the cows and bottle feeding the beautiful new calf Gilbert, a strongly sought-after position. As the week and a half year old calf, already larger than a middle aged child, eagerly sucked on the red rubber nipple of its bottle, I couldn’t help but bask in the feelings of renewal. I am lucky to enjoy this time of big eyed cows with impossibly long lashes, the red buds bursting into dots of color on the branches of maple trees, and friends I’m not ready to say goodbye to yet. As much as I have enjoyed my years in California with its seasons once described as summer and diet summer, I love a real spring.
Annie, The Thacher School, New Jersey