In this winter’s depths, hope truly springs eternal


Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer
Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09

The first seed catalog turned up in the mailbox on New Year’s Eve. Such a cruel tease.

I’m certain this was no accident. As the calendar page turns, we all want to cast our eyes hopefully to a higher plane, arms open wide to the promise riding in on those fresh dozen months that stretch ahead, fertile ground ripe with possibility. Those lovely pages slathered with lush color and fecund potential — Heavy producer! Vigorous vines! Early yields! — leave no alternative to sheer optimism. And there’s no better metaphor out there for a fresh beginning than the humble packet of seeds that, when set to soil and nurtured with sunshine and water, will bring forth something gorgeous or delicious, or both.

At that point, of course, we didn’t yet know what lay ahead, the dark and dystopian weeks that would drag on. And on. Despite our household platoons of snow shovels, and the community’s well-laid plans of stocking 44 million pounds of street salt to keep us rolling on the roads — surely that would be enough, wouldn’t it? — we really weren’t fully prepared for the long, long string of slaps of Siberia-style savagery that would be hurled our way by those sadistic weather gods. We could not yet anticipate the human capacity to yearn simply for a day warm enough to wash that four-wheeled salt block we’d been driving around these many weeks.

From the look of things, most of us are ready to have something to talk about that doesn’t have anything to do with the weather. We really can’t do anything to change its course; I think we get that by now. It’s just that another conversation topic would be, well refreshing. Let’s face it: we’re pretty darned winter-weary, most of us. I’m not above shamelessly stealing a line from that esteemed composer, George Harrison: it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter indeed.

Alas, February is scarcely half done. This a frustrating splash in the face with ice water, since nobody who’s lived in these parts for more than a season or two is truly able to pretend spring is right around the corner. Even in what had become a normal winter, we don’t foolishly believe the fabled groundhog’s worst-case prediction of six more weeks before the dark dystopia recedes into our collective rearview mirror.

Consider this: just four weeks stand between now and that fine day when the bagpipers come marching down Mill Street. That can only mean good things, with the yearly West Suburban Irish St. Patrick’s Day parade kicking off a series of parades and fests that bring us all outdoors to revel in that thing that is community. Those kilts are a sight for sore eyes, the musicians’ strains music to our ears indeed.

Even better, the parade is preceded by Sunrise Rotary’s St. Paddy’s Day 5K, the first of at least seven 5-kilometer races in the city that will stretch across those long, gloriously golden days ushered in by those guys and gals in the kilts.

All these things bode well for those of us who dare to hope.

Still not sold? Consider the Gospel Extravaganza, set for Saturday night at North Central College. Nope, it still won’t be spring yet, but those four gospel writers were pretty optimistic sorts, after all. And besides, an evening of upbeat praise, set to a catchy beat, could possibly get you off the hook for not getting around to reserving a table for a romantic evening out in commemoration of Valentine’s Day. Seems worth a try.

See? There are always at least a couple reasons to plant the seeds of optimism.