When I think of spring, I think of cucumber face wash and refreshing mornings. I imagine the rain-soaked pavement is actually the moisturizer on my face reassuring me my week will be as rejuvenating as the packaging leads me to believe. I think of the smell of rain and its attachment to cleanliness. It’s the smell of an open window with a fresh cup of coffee and a light cardigan or a cotton robe over pajamas. The color of spring grass reminds me of Jell-O when I missed school because I was sick and my mom still took care of me. But then I remember I never liked green Jell-O anyway, and I always ate red or blue or orange. Maybe it also reminds me of the plastic confetti makeshift grass used in children’s Easter baskets. It’s almost too green to be real.
Then I think about how Midwestern seasons function: the harshest seasons—summer and winter—seem to occupy the most days on the calendar. The intermediate seasons, the seasons for rebirth, are quick turnarounds, swift flicks of the switch. They are the moments in the everyday like the face wash and the coffee that we don’t really seem to remember even though they soon become rituals.
Living in the Midwest is interesting—it teaches you how to be cordial and overtly nice to people in their presence. Key phrase: in their presence. We open doors and we wave to strangers. We give a half-smile when we accidentally make eye contact with someone in the hall or on the street. If you’ve ever worked with customer service, you learn to expect personal stories when you ask someone about their day.
Sitting on the front porch with my parents or grandparents when it rained was the norm. Without realizing it, I think this was when I began to appreciate spring. I used to beg for summer so I could read what I wanted to read and not worry about anything other than work; however, that quickly changed after high school. I used to sit under slides at the park while the rubber tire pieces formed imprints into my bare legs. My hands became dry despite the humid Indiana heat from hours of page turning. I found little interest in dominating the playground with basketballs or games of tag because I was a bookish introvert getting lost in the pages of Barbara Parks or Beverly Cleary or J.K. Rowling.
When it rained and outdoor recess was cancelled, we had the opportunity to play board games or read. I used to love the classrooms with beanbags and pillows near the floor-to-ceiling windows in my rural elementary school. I could watch the raindrops race each other down the length of the glass and place my face right in front of it as my breath fogged the window. Then I could draw a heart or a star or another symbol to represent how I felt or what I read. The rain outside drowned everything in its presence: grass, sidewalks, swings.
What used to seem forlorn now seems refreshing.
When I wash dishes, I take the washcloth or sponge I want to use and lather it with soap. The hot water needs to be hot, but not scalding. I take the soapy object and wash my dishes—first the inside, then the rim, then the outside. Sometimes I allow the tap water to run into the cup and I watch as the water deepens and runs over the rim. The excess water is at first overloaded with soap, but then, after a few seconds of running over, the soap is gone. The water flushes it out.
Water has the ability to not only refresh what it touches, but also replenish what we didn’t know we had lost. When I go on a run, I prefer to run either in the early afternoon or in the late evening. The weather at these times is the coolest—the sun will always be either in front or behind me but never above me. Overcast skies are oddly comforting, though. There is always the chance of a light rain or a storm. During one specific run, the rain was soft at first, but then there was a perpendicular storm trying to flush me out of the street; however, it didn’t feel threatening. I was stressed about issues not important to this essay, and it was as though the rain wanted to remind me: I simply needed to feel refreshed.
Right foot, left foot, dodge the puddle, right foot.
I stopped worrying about stepping in mud or in puddles because my feet were getting wet anyway, and I didn’t have to worry about the mud staining my shoes. I simply stopped worrying about what didn’t matter.
The previous season seemed to consume most of the calendar year: overcast skies never brought refreshing moments or even a break for the sun. It was not as bitter as winters in the past had been, but that almost made it stand out even more. In December, I think I received more updates from The Guardian than all other forms of communication—even text messages.
Well, Ball State might have emailed more. Anyway. Moving on.
These updates instantly made my eyes crinkle. I held my breath. Nausea swept from my stomach, up to my throat, and into my salivated mouth. BREAKING almost always centered on governmental action. These extreme updates seemed to polarize even the peacefulness of the Midwest.
In my senior seminar, we discuss theories in everyday life. Those insignificant moments—eating, resting, sifting through social media—are actually important. They represent our mental health, our habits, and our upbringings. They completely encompass who we are as individuals. They are what make us different than someone who grew up down the street or across the country.
I used to think of running as an insignificant habit. I run nearly every day—I only don’t if I am simply too busy or the weather is incapacitating. It became a normal part of my daily routine. Then, the storm came through to remind me: breathe. This routine started as a coping mechanism or to relieve stress, but then it eventually evolved into the norm. This particular day, I was overwhelmed. Then, it rained. My clothes turned two shades darker and became two times heavier. The sweat on my face washed away. My flushed cheeks were relieved of the redness. My hair—an already atrocious mess—started to fall out of its hair tie under the water’s weight.
I realized amidst the deadlines, the rejections, the papers, and the assignments, I had forgotten to breathe. My body needed replenished. I needed my lavender oils, a casual run just for fun, a few hours in hibernation mode with my laptop and free writing. I needed to observe the places in the pavement where rainwater pooled and to witness the change in color of the grass after its most recent shower. These polarizing winter months somehow made me forget to do that. I forgot to smile at people on the street or in the halls. I was exhausted.
After therapy sessions, hours spent writing, reading for fun, yoga, and spending time outside, I’m learning how to refresh. Rain has been one of my favorite weather forms. Drizzle is almost as light as fresh snow. It gives a light layer of precipitation as though to remind me to take time to wash my face with my favorite cucumber face wash.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.