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Opening Letters

COLUMN: Ring in the Spring – One Indignity at a Time

welcoming the spring by remembering everything we put off in the winter

BJ Hollars, illustrated by Kate Netwal |

We’ve got a saying here in western Wisconsin: if the temperature rises above 40 degrees, behave like you’re in the Bahamas. Maybe it’s not so much a saying as a guiding principle – a form of survival to combat the crushing blow of winter. All it takes is a hint of April sunshine to trigger the change in behavior. And some years, a hint is all we get. 

A few weeks back, when those first glorious rays peeked through the clouds, I awakened from my yearly hibernation. Peering into my closet, I considered breaking out the flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, but then thought better of it: maybe just Bermuda shorts for now.  I sprinted to my shed, bypassing the last gasps of snow to retrieve my bike for the inaugural ride of the season. 

What better way to ring in the spring than eagerly partaking in some seasonally inappropriate activity?

To say that I ‘toppled’ from my bike would be giving me too much credit. I crashed in every sense of the word.  My tires caught ice, and all that metaphorical sliding turned suddenly literal.  


My shoes were soaked by the time my bike and I reached the street, but it seemed a small setback in exchange for a fresh breath of cool Wisconsin air. A fresh breath that turned out not to be so fresh; one inhale reminded me of an adverse effect of snowmelt—the inglorious return of putrid piles of dog poo.  Our yard had accumulated a winter’s worth, the inevitable result of my refusal to roam my backyard’s tundra with a bag.

  I’ll get it when it warms up, says every Wisconsin dog owner ever. Which always sounds like the perfect plan in mid-January.

Sighing, I momentarily sidelined my bike ride and reached for a garbage bag.  Which I filled until the bag weighed twice as much as the dog. 

The work now complete, I returned once more to my bike.  I reached for the air pump, though before filling the tires, I noticed another springtime chore that required my attention: garage cleanup. For me, this meant breaking down three months’ worth of empty boxes, all of which have piled to Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa proportions. Suddenly I was reacquainted with diaper boxes, pizza boxes, and delivery boxes from yesteryear. Since I’d neglected this duty for months as well, I had little choice but to reach for the utility knife and begin wedging the flattened carcasses into the recycling bin.    

The second labor now complete, I was finally ready to ride.

Or I might’ve been if not for my flooded sidewalks. 

No matter, I thought. It’s nothing a sturdy broom can’t fix.  

Bypassing the dog poo bag and the recycling bin, I returned to the garage, searching for the broom. I retrieved it, then made a swim for the sidewalks.  

All of this is the price we pay for spring—one indignity after another following a winter’s worth of letting things slide.  Our chores slide, our health slides, even our optimism slides.  It’s no wonder winter does little to inspire us to rise to any occasion.  While the rest of the world proves true the old proverb of March coming “in like a lion, and out like a lamb,” here in Eau Claire – even in April! – all we ever get is more lion.    

Once spring-cleaning duties were completed, I joined my fellow citizens in the far more fun annual tradition of shivering in the sunshine. Pedaling through the neighborhood’s slush-filled streets, I passed a pack of teeth-chattering runners.  We waved and hollered at one another with enthusiasm generally reserved for a Packers playoff win. 

Call it spring fever, or cabin fever, or hypothermia – whatever our ailment, we had it bad. 

Still, I was euphoric.  Spring had sprung – or so I believed.

But as I reached the top of State Street hill, winter’s lion bit again.

To say that I “toppled” from my bike would be giving me too much credit. I crashed in every sense of the word.  My tires caught ice, and all that metaphorical sliding turned suddenly literal.  

Thankfully, there was only one witness.

“You okay?” called the driver behind me.

“Just my pride,” I blushed.

“Happy spring!” she called. 

“Happy spring!” I replied.

Tightening my Bermuda shorts, I pedaled on.