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.
No one is wholly immune, though many do not succumb till they smell hot pine or asphalt, or see the first dust frolicking in a lane. Still others resist even unto the day of the Kentucky Derby or the Indianapolis 500-mile auto race. In contrast, the fisherman is often stricken prematurely, as witness my friend, Frank Reck. Frank's 1954 Christmas card depicted a basket of trout on a brook bank. The card bore the following legend:
"Only 126 more days to the opening of the trout season!"
My wife and I, who live in a remote cabin in the Maine wilderness for six months each year, and in congested cities for the other six, may be particularly vulnerable to spring fever. Spring is the time of our return to the wilderness, and it has never come soon enough, no matter how hard we try to beguile it.
One year in the city, with winter but a few days old, my wife announced that she had noticed the lengthening of twilight.
"Impossible," I told her, and offered her the almanac. "Look here. Only three or four minutes' difference."
"Then it is longer!" she cried. "And besides, I heard a bird sing."
"It was a sparrow."
"A sparrow is a bird—and it sang to the growing light."
It may have been this incidence of voiced longing that led us to inquire into the nature of spring fever. We have found no conclusion, save mystery; and mystery is implicit in the beauty of spring.