Spring fever, Montana-style

Black Otter Trail, Billings © Sherri Cornett

The day, like the day before, was blustery and cold. The snow continued to fall, lightly on the north wind, from morning through the evening. Although it didn’t stick on the ground long, it kept on coming.

This, my friends, is springtime in Montana. This is April.

There are no cherry blossoms, no daffodils, no leaves on the trees, no resurgence of life, no rebirth of green. Just more snow and cold.

But before you tell me to stop being so freaking negative because, dammit, spring will come eventually and it will be all the better because of winter being so clingy, well, let me tell you. I have Spring Fever.

At least I think I do. What exactly is Spring Fever? According to researchers, “spring fever may best be characterized as a combination of conflicting emotions, including a sense of comfort, warmth and renewal, amiability and lack of ambition.”

So not exactly like when we were in school and just wanted to be outside playing in the sunshine (although that too is a kind of spring fever.) But it is a release of winter blues, an uptick in energy, and — good news! — a reduction of appetite! (No wonder we all lose a little weight in the summer.) It made my friend Sherri and me brave 25 degree weather, a biting north wind, and an slick trail yesterday to get in our walk with our pal, Bentley, the blue heeler. No lack of ambition on Bentley’s part.

But Spring Fever isn’t all good moods and high energy. That reaction in some people makes others just get weird. ‘April is the cruelest month,’ according to the poet TS Eliot. If everyone around you feels all warm and friendly and you are lonely or angry, you might lash out. Depression, alcoholism, and suicide peaks in springtime. Could this be the reason there’ve been all the bombings and mass shootings the last 20 years in April? Do we need some kind of Spring Fever Alienation Intervention?

One seasonal researcher (yes there are such people) says: “That sense of flux – feeling better in certain dimensions, but not in other ways – may be the real definition of spring fever.” Of course as animals we react to our environment, waking up a bit when the sun shines more. It’s biological, not just psychological, they say.

So, even though winter is still choking the living daylights out of Montana and the northern states, even though Canada keeps sending the Alberta clipper our way, the calendar says April and that means the sun comes up early and, even behind snow clouds, makes most of us feel a little bit better. We anticipate warm days, gardening, swimming, fishing, and hiking.

When I lived in Jackson Hole I experienced for the first time a bad case of winter blues. Maybe it was the minus 20 degrees every morning for two or three weeks. Maybe it was the dreary days and long nights. (If possible I go away to a warm clime in late January, but it didn’t happen that year.) Many people experience the blues in winter as a true problem called Seasonal Affective Disorder, something like 5% of the population, mostly women.

For SAD sufferers, spring fever is a good thing. They act ”as giddy as a puppet on a string this time of year,” said a scientist in the New York Times. ”They are simply examples in the extreme form of changes that occur in all of us in spring.”

Change is inevitable, right behind taxes and springtime. Some people don’t adapt well, especially if the seasons change too fast. As for me, the change to a real Spring can’t come fast enough. Give me flowers. Give me warmth. Give me Spring. I promise to always have Spring Fever, every April.

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  • Happy Spring Lise! Much as I enjoyed your salute to Spring….I have a request…and it may be asking too much, but I have to ask. Could you do an installment story? I don’t pay enough attention to know if you post on regular basis…weekly or whatever…but could you, at some time, tease us through a McClendon story? short or long, makes no difference. Merci, Sharon

    • A

      Oh, what a good suggestion, Sharon! I have a new novel coming out in June. I could post some of the book. Is that what you mean?

  • A

    You’ve got it figured out, David! I love to garden too, which is probably why this late winter weather has been so annoying. Luckily I’m in the “giddy as a puppet on a string” camp re longer daylight hours. Not sure if Vitamin D does the trick or the production of melatonin that boosts the mood. Whatever it is, getting up in the morning is easier! Happy Spring. 🙂

  • Physiological. With spring comes longer days, which means we get more sun, which means more natural vitamin D. We feel better, which makes us more energetic.

    Sorry if that takes all the fun out of it. Well, maybe for you, but my way of relieving stress is to get my hands dirty and my muscles sore. Springtime. The best part of the year. Always.

    I grew up in Minnesota, so I know northerners do not go swimming before June -:)

    I’m in the Ozarks now and after studying and some editing this morning I stepped out back with a garden shovel and bucket (later rider mower, big shovel and chain saw).

    I can do this. I just have to settle into a schedule that lets me work in the morning and play in the afternoon. When it gets hotter, I’ll reverse that.

    Work, then play. Work makes play possible. Ah, I think I got it now.

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