Spring Somewhere Else

Officially everywhere!

“Every time the seasons change, it reminds me of being somewhere else,” I told my husband. We had just walked past our millionth crocus (they’re everywhere now, littering the strips of grass between sidewalk and street like candy wrappers, only beautiful).

“Is that weird?” I asked. He shrugged–he knows better than to actually answer that question.

But is it? In one sense, I feel the seasons should ground me deeply where I am. I feel, specifically, this dirt between my toes, this side of the sun on my face, this flower petal, soft enough to crumble to pieces under my thumb. Yet at the same time, the special attention I pay to place when a season shifts keeps me going backwards, to other places I’ve lived and loved, as soon as the air changes.

I remember, studying in Freiburg during the spring semester of my junior year in college, stepping off the train after a week in Spain and reeling at the new air, which had grown palpably thicker while I was gone, rich with scent and weight. Sterile winter chill had given way to a cacophony of buds on every tree, a riot of birdsong, black dirt. “It happened so fast,” I thought at the time. “I went away, and I missed it.”

Here in Stuttgart, spring means:

  • Tables set out at the Biergarten 
  • Children digging in sand and whooping down slides while their parents sit on benches and shade their eyes at the Spielplatz
  • Farmers tilling the soil in the fields by our apartment
  • Crocuses everywhere

I love it, but even as I snap pictures and tip my head back to catch more sun, I can also picture spring in Michigan as though I’m living there, not here:

  • Flip flops and shorts everywhere because it’s finally 55 degrees
  • A few tiny traces of snow clinging, only in the very shadiest spots, to…grass!
  • Magnolias bursting to life, then fluttering down to carpet the street with their sweet rotting leaves
  • The first cautious trips to the beach. And the sound of waves without ice.
  • Construction

When seasons change, I’m prone to intense nostalgia and intense appreciation of where I am. Sometimes I’m home, sometimes I’m here. I like having both.

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20 comments

  1. You’re lucky to have so many memories of other seasons to which you can compare *this* season! (I say this while snug in my living room in the same hometown I grew up in, feeling confident that I’d be bawling my eyes out to remember the specifics of spring if I were elsewhere right now :))

    And I love crocuses. So simple and sweet!

    1. When I’m feeling homesick, it’s easy for me to downplay the blessing of these ties to other places…but thank you for reminding me that it is something to be appreciated. Still, I love the image of you curled up in your living room in your hometown. There’s a comfort in watching seasons come and go in the same place…you come to know it deep in your bones. It really becomes part of you.

  2. I don’t know if it’s weird or if it’s normal (I think, maybe normal, but not always noticed?) but I do know that, for me, time and place are never as simple as the spot where I’m standing. Memories always crowd in. They elbow at the present and then the present stomps her foot and pushes them away. (Can you tell I had a long day with my kids?) Thanks for taking me along with you for this though; it was a whirlwind of springtime around the world and now I’m breathless. Such beautiful descriptions!

    1. I love your description of the present stomping her foot and pushing the past away…a metaphor that definitely resonates with this parent too! I think I do struggle to fully immerse myself where I am sometimes because of the intensity of memories that take me elsewhere. Then again, I’m also grateful for the connections to multiple places.

  3. Love you description of the crocus. I was going to write that the crocus and schneeglöchen covered the ground in puddles of purple and white. But I don’t really have a blog. :-) For me it is always the time right before the Spring comes that I long for other places. Maybe its just that long time of grey…it makes you long for summer, vacation, grass, etc.

    At camp we always looked out the window at a tiny sign someone had made in the 70’s. It read “Be Here Now.” When I let my mind drift too far, I remember the sign and a phrase my Young Life leader used to say “grow where you’re planted.” It is hard to be fully present, especially when we have so much to clutter our minds with…but I keep trying..especially while Zmo is in her bath…just sit there, play, and be here now.

    1. Puddles of purple and white– great line! You should start your own blog. :)

      Yes, there’s something about winter ending and color returning to the world that makes nostalgia pretty easy. But I really like your camp sign and the Young Life phrase. Our kids perhaps provide some of the best incentives to immerse ourselves in the “now.” Especially at Zmo and A’s age they are so engaged in the moment, they have a lot to teach us.

  4. Such wonderful nostalgic pictures to treasure always, Sarah! I, too, remember my childhood home and blooms, my college days, and all the homesites of my adult life! All the images become entangled and warm my heart as I warm my legs with my slacks pulled up over the knees in my side yard. I do not even want to take time to go put on shorts or a swimsuit! I just want to immerse myself in spring. Stuttgart sounds heavenly there right now. So pleased for you and yours!

    1. Thank you Rose! Yes, sometimes these memories seem to generate actual physical warmth…the cumulative weight of all of the places we’ve lived and loved is strong and reassuring. Happy Spring to you.

  5. I understand your feelings. I often find myself in one part of the world with my mind being drawn to another place based on a sight, sound, color, or smell. Just the other day I caught a whiff of laundry detergent that smelled like my home in Cape Town. My mind immediately pictured our house there with the sun shining and the laundry line in the yard full of freshly laundered clothes. It was the first time that I had smelled that brand of detergent in 8 years, yet my brain has it specifically linked to a certain place and time for me. I love moments of having an unexpected but pleasant memory evoked without consciously seeking it out : )

    1. Andrea, I really love that description of your laundry line in Cape Town. Smells carry such strong memories, don’t they? I had a similar experience recently just walking into a German Post Office; something about the smell suddenly brought vivid recollections of time I spent in Germany as a child surging back. I am always amazed and grateful at these sudden slices of memory.

    1. Laura, thanks so much for this honor. I look forward to accepting the award. I’ve been remiss in responding to your wonderful blog posts lately– a busy couple of weeks and I’m off schedule, but I plan to soon. Enjoy the Portland sun!

  6. What beautiful writing, Sarah! I fell into your words and felt spring sprouting in the spaces between them. So you are originally from East Lansing? Barry and I went to MSU there for 2-3 years in the mid to late 70’s before we moved up to the U.P. Then our daughter went there, but our son went to U of M. Wondering now how you’ve landed in Stuttgart with the crocuses everywhere?

    1. Kathy, thanks for stopping by. I really enjoy your blog and am honored to have you read mine.

      We have some similar university ties…My husband and I met at U of M and my father teaches at MSU. We both got jobs at the International School of Stuttgart, but I’ve actually lived in Germany twice before so it’s been a bit of a circular journey for me. There’s much to appreciate here, but we miss home as well.

  7. We seem to be lacking (so far) in crocuses this year… hopefully some will start popping up soon! Until then, it’s very nice to be able to live vicariously through other people’s beautiful posts :)
    anne

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