Shannon Horace reflects on the transition from Winter to Spring.
Astronomically, seasons are defined by the position of the Earth’s orbit in relation to the Sun, which results in two equinoxes (Spring & Autumn) and two solstices (Summer & Winter). An equinox occurs when the Sun’s path lies directly on the Earth’s equator, while a solstice occurs when the Sun’s path is farthest north or south from the Equator, positioned on the tropics. This year, Astronomical Spring started at approximately 3:33pm on March 20th, ending at 10:13am on June 21st.
Sunlight is supposed to be more abundant come March time, and so our bodies create more vitamin D from its exposure. While beneficial for physical health, sunlight and vitamin D have a substantial impact on our mental health too. It becomes easier to socialise outside when the weather is fairer, making us more likely to venture into the ‘great outdoors’ where it is greener and nature begins to thrive again – prompting us to thrive with it. At the first sign of a rise in temperature, with blue skies from morning to evening, we gather in our masses to the closest green space to soak up the sun in our Summer clothes.
My mental health typically improves with the arrival of Spring; it evokes the feeling that the Earth is more alive which sparks a sense of optimism for the future. Even the term ‘spring cleaning’ refers to the idea that we ritualistically cleanse our homes to bring about a fresh start following the slowness of the Winter months. For me, Spring kindles the blossoming of warmth in spirit, mood, temperature and colour, acting as a respite from the incessant gloomy clouds that induce my Winter melancholy. Whether I’m greeted by the morning symphony of birdsong chatter between robins, or the relentless squawking of the pigeon clan outside my window, I feel grateful for it all. I think Spring incites a collective spirit that better, brighter, more cheerful days are approaching. But not all of us feel this way. While Spring can be the token of new beginnings, it is often rendered as nothing more than the pre-chorus to Summer.
I asked around my circle of student friends and Instagram acquaintances to see what people our age think about Spring. My best friend sees Spring as this liminal no-man’s-land stage between Winter and Summer with nothing much significant going on – it’s all about Summer for her. The more or less consistently warm, sunny weather provides optimism and healthy nostalgia, yet Spring is just a stepping stone to get to that place. Another friend adds that Spring often makes her feel restless and disappointed; she thinks it’s overhyped, excessively romanticised and never as sunny or warm as is hoped for. Other students I spoke to are reminded of runny noses, hay fever, excitement and waiting for Summer to come. However, one of my spiritual, tarot-loving pals recognises that Spring is a time for “GROWTH!”, respite and renewal, that the Four of Swords and the Six of Cups resonate significantly with this month.
An increase of sunlight is acknowledged by most of us; some students appreciate Spring because it marks the first opportunity of the academic year to start taking breaks outside on campus – personally, I think sandwiches always taste better when the Sun is shining. One student notes a ‘motivational spirit’ that comes with springtime, which for another, serves as an end to their seasonal depression, because at heart he’s just ‘a houseplant that needs sunlight to be happy’.
I think this sense of respite rings true for many of us. It is as though Spring provides relief from our interconnectedness with the Winter weather and our mood. Our mental health blooms a little and we can enjoy the outdoors when it’s easier to be there. I see that a lot of us are in this ‘waiting mode’ after Winter; we’re sick of the cold and the drizzle, we want to feel inspired again, we’re looking back through our camera rolls and the 6×4 film pictures on our walls, bathing ourselves in nostalgia – I know I do. We tend to love the beginning of Summer, but typically by the end of it, the UK aches for Autumn and Winter – that same respite from heatwaves and humming fans as we try to get to sleep in our sticky, sweat-stained sheets.
Is Spring merely a time of waiting? Do we only care for our solstices? Is it all about Summer until we crave Winter again and the cycle continues? Our mental health and optimism should rarely rely on waiting for the idea that ‘everything will be better again by Summer’. Beyond the seasons, if we’re constantly living in anticipation for the future, we’ll never be able to embrace the importance of the present. As gracefully put by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation”. We’re always seeking something better, thinking that the grass will be greener come Summer. We’re essentially making our happiness contingent on some point in the future, appointing a loosely allocated ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to each season.I can’t ignore the very real threat of depression in Winter, or the fact that life generally is more enjoyable and promising in Summer. But, perhaps we can reframe our perspectives a little, and see the value in this time during the Spring equinox before the heat comes.