SI Vault
Edmund Ware Smith
April 11, 1955
The timing, contagion and nature of spring fever passeth all understanding. It is a siren hope and loveliness, a sorceress, an ache in the heart, a flame of revival in the human soul. It is a monumental dream of green pastures and still waters; and it incites grown men to throw away their hats, to perpetrate sonnets in fervid secrecy, or to practice chip shots with rusted nine-irons on the snow which lies dying in the streets of the town.
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April 11, 1955

Ode To Spring Fever

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Spring fever is composed of ingredients, sifting through the mind and heart of a human being, at home or far away; and the human being and his mind and heart vary immeasurably. So do the ingredients comprising the litany of spring, for among them are the scent of woodsmoke; the light in. the eyes of a farmer as he touches a softening furrow with his boot toe; the imagined song of the leaping, ice-free river of your dream; the flow of maple sap; the wild geese charging the moonlit sky with drama; the subtle change in the bark of trees; the swelling under last year's matted leaves; the tendrils of music from peep frogs in a twilit swamp; the sway and color of the weeping willows; the scent of earth; the crack of a baseball bat; the changes in the voices of children on the playground at recess; the discovery of last year's fishing license; a man in a window oiling a reel on a sleety Sunday morn; the florist shops and the hats of Eastertime; the photograph of a swimming hole; or your own small son begging desperately for matches.

"What for?"

"I have to build a fireā€”just a little one."

"But, why?"

"To see the smoke, and the light, and feel warm."


But perhaps spring fever is not so much an ailment as a moment in time. Perhaps it's when the ice breaks up on the Yukon River; and when men in the back rooms of Bangor talk about old days on the log drive; and when you suddenly see a foal and its mother lying in the young grass by a white fence; and when you find the blue, broken shell of a small egg and know that a young robin has hatched in a nest invisible in the elm branches waving above you.

Or maybe spring fever is when an old man, lame and gray, plans a canoe trip to Hudson's Bay and the Arctic Circle. He forgets that his comrade on the trip is long dead as he gets out paper and pencil and writes out a food and equipment list for the trip he knows he will never take. In late summer he finds the list stuck between the leaves of a book which should be titled, Of Time and the River. The old man thoughtfully re-reads the list, beginning: "Canoe, paddles, tent, axe, blankets, bacon, flour, salt, whetstone, compass, matches...."

"I guess I had it pretty bad last spring," he says to himself; and, smiling inwardly, drops the list into a waste basket and relights his pipe.

Late in March I think especially of the power of spring fever as it must affect the woodsmen in the isolated, snow-banked cabins in our Maine wilderness. Fred Walker? Clair Desmond at Telos Dam? Fred Harrison at Hudson Pond? They live alone, and the long icicle of winter must be stabbing their hearts with loneliness, and with longing for spring. One of them will see a crocus in his cabin dooryard; another a chipmunk giving forth an uproar of cheer; another a tiny patch of open water on his lake. Something will swell their hearts, and there will be gratitude, restlessness, a wild elation and a dramatic trip to town.

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