A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Thank God it’s spring. This isn’t just a calendar page turn or a set your watch an hour ahead, this is the real meal deal. Mother Nature is changing her clothes, and Father Time is watching. We mere mortals are only a small part of what they both have in mind, but just like every year since protoplasmic slime came out of the water, it’s going to be spectacular. Spring is to love what winter is to bundling up and reading novels. As of today, the birds and the bees are back, and they’re feeling frisky.
Unfortunately, the spring solstice doesn’t carry the kind of punch it used to. These days, it’s mostly living on its reputation. We all know it’s spring, but, unless you’ve embraced the New Age, three millennia after the fact, who cares? In a world of canned-air malls, thunderdomed sports stadiums and concrete canyon streets, Mother Nature could take a month off and nobody would notice. While this is strictly true, ignore Mother Nature at your peril because she has a way of slapping the ego out of the most arrogant among us. Primitive humans knew this; that’s why they treated the spring solstice with such respect.
Way back in the day, winter in the northern hemisphere was nothing to be trifled with. Our species never physically adapted to the cold the way some of the other animals on this planet did. However, despite our natural tendency to freeze to death, we insisted on living in climates that were inhospitable for four months of the year. The only recourse for this stupidity was to outsmart Mother Nature using the tools available – fire and the skins of more practical animals. We hid in caves during the worst of the winter weather and only came out for food and firewood. Obviously, we survived long enough to understand that, regardless of how brutally Mother Nature tried to kill us, eventually she would relent and treat us like her special children again. This was cause for celebration.
As we evolved beyond beetle-brow tough to early human clever, we must have realized that these constantly changing seasons were not random. They had a pattern. When winter was over, the leaves came out. From there, only a Neanderthal wouldn’t put two and two together and realize, once the leaves started to fall, winter was coming back. (That’s why there are no more Neanderthals, BTW. Just sayin’.) With that in mind, it wasn’t a Cro-Magnon leap to figure out that, with a little planning, we could gather food and firewood during the good weather when they were plentiful, store them away, and a smart caveman could sit out the winter in relative comfort. Thus, instead of hanging out in the cave, shivering and getting skinny, Grog the Caveman had some leisure time to figure out a few other things. For example, he’d notice all the signs of spring that we don’t care about any more. Things like, when the kids started falling through the ice in the river it wouldn’t be that long before the good eating birds would come back. Or don’t worry about the bear in the next cave, because he’s going to be asleep until the snow in the meadow melts. This was important stuff that affected Grog’s survival. The more he knew about when spring was going to show up, the more likely it was that he would be around to see it.
Unfortunately, climatology hadn’t been invented yet, and so Grog filed all these various things he was discovering under “Mother Nature: Whims and Idiosyncrasies.” It made sense to Grog that Mother Nature was real. He saw her all around him. She made the flowers bloom, the wind blow and the angry black clouds blot out the sun. So it followed that, when spring finally did come and Grog and his family were still around, he should be polite and say thanks.
These days, we don’t much care for Mother Nature. For the last two hundred years or so, we’ve been fighting it out with her for supremacy on this planet. There are those who say we’re winning and those who say we’ve already lost. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t seem to give a damn, one way or the other. Our egos are so secure we no longer thank her — or anybody else — for our existence. However, on days like today, when spring is in the air and all’s well with the world, I tend to get a little caveman humble. I can see something in the crow building a nest and that sprouty green sprig that’s probably a weed. Even in the city, there’s an early morning smell that isn’t diesel fumes. Something is happening again this year, and it’s going to fantastic. We should all be thankful we get to experience it all again.