The first days of spring are coming to Hokkaido.
These are the symptoms of spring:
I am no longer wearing my jacket. Ditto my scarf. I feel the sunlight in places that I don’t remember feeling sunlight. It’s an intimate form of synesthesia, almost, feeling like you can taste the sunlight on your skin. Like you can savor feeling on your tongue. The only analogue I have is like when you develop that thin patina of sweat on the hottest summer days, or the little beads that collect on your arms and on the backs of your hands in the sauna, when you can feel the dim moisture on your skin and taste the saltiness. I can taste the sunlight. It tastes biological, like new rubbery buds on the trees, tastes like clean air and fresh water. It tastes new, but not like new products, not like New Car or New Apple Accessory – it tastes new like new life.
I can feel it too, that little shimmer on the backs of my hands, jammed for so long in the bottoms of pockets. The glow of the dull hairs there, somehow apotheosized into filaments of gold in my skin. In the sunlight the unevenness of my winter pale is flattened a bit, my knuckles grow a little less red, a little less pinked by stretching and banging their knobbliness on things. The one freckle I have on the back of each hand (one freckle per hand, that is) doesn’t stand out as much against the broad wan wintered skin around it. My hand is transformed from this jointed spidery thing into something a little bit closer to the precision watch ads in Esquire magazine.
When I catch a glimpse of myself in a passing window, my face is even and shining, maybe a bit distant. It looks like I’m smiling even when I’m not. I haven’t shaved in a couple of days – transmonth busy-ness – but the millimeter or two of rough brown-black fuzz on my face doesn’t look disheveled in the sun – it looks rugged and attractive, like Hugh Jackman. I hope I will still look this way when I go inside.
The sun gets into crevices where it usually can’t reach, reflected off this or that, refusing to be refused access to the shadows, spilling through clouds and into cars and through big picture windows and lying out on the back of my sofa and on the floor of my living room.
The sidewalk grinds with the refuse gravel that the snow has left behind. It crunches like the leaves that fell in autumn and somehow disappeared between then and now. The little sharp stones crawl into my shoes and nestle into my toes and will force me to remove my shoes at the Board of Education, where removing your shoes is probably considered pretty impolite. When I reach into my pocket my finger is stung by a couple of loose gravel-rocks that have somehow gotten in there. I can’t fathom how they got into my jacket pocket. One gets caught underneath my fingernail and I have to pick it out, which is harder than it sounds.
I prefer walking on the sandy-muddy dirt of lawn edges and parking lots. The unpaved ground gives just a little, moist but not wholly wet, bending like well-worn leather. Here and there the embedded rocks bake in the sunlight, their bald, misshapen heads dusty but not unclean, somehow. Stepping on ground like this also blends senses a little bit – the give of the ground doesn't make a sound, but feels like what sighing sounds like. A sigh not of exasperation but of satisfaction, a sigh period-ing Easter brunch, everyone still Sunday-bested after church. It makes me profoundly happy to stand on earth that gives a little bit, like the planet is nodding to me, acknowledging my weight upon it, infinitesimally minute but there. I smile when I realize I leave footprints – not by any means lasting ones, like the ones on the moon; but they’ll still be there when I get home this afternoon.
I get home no longer in the evening but in the afternoon. This also makes me happy, like a boon of a couple extra hours to get stuff done, to go for a bike ride, to leave the curtains open, to live on natural light.
You never realize how much color means life, and how much a lack of color means unlife, means the rule of non-biological Nature, until spring comes back around and life comes back to you. Like winter's capital-N Nature demands but springs minusule-n nature suggests. We've been under the thumb of meteorology for the past five months, but we’re coming back around to biology: bugs in the air and the smell of wood in the wind and the sounds of vivid crows and the soft sussurus of leaves at play. The leaves aren't out yet – the tips of the branches are only now just beginning to show little green-white buds – but you can almost hear them in the quiet morning, like footprints marked ahead of you, stretching into the summer.
Summer and winter are both loud and mighty, wild swings of the thermometer to extremes; but autumn and (more poignantly) spring are subtle, their presences known in changes of wind and texture of sunlight. The smells in the air that you never really smellbut only remember smelling, a note caught the breath before and you're already exhaling. Sighing.
While I wait for the traffic light to change everything seems very quiet. I can remember this sort of quiet from a month or two ago, delicately filled in by the ringing hollow of cold, or the vague white noise of snowfall. Winter’s silence sounds like the long car ride home after the rest of Hokkaido has gone to sleep; but spring’s silence is the thrum of the first train before everyone has woken up. It’s exciting in it’s own way, like a big blank canvas before what you know can only be a storm of great ideas – like buying a pack of three Moleskine notebooks and thinking of all of the things you’ll write down, someday – like the end of the first chapter of a book you know you’ll really like, feeling how many pages there are to go in your right hand, hiding in the comfort between those innumerable pages. You stand at that traffic light in the pre-action quiet and know not what you’ll do, only that you’ll do.
The light turns green and I’m on my way again.