Time for spring, I say!
"Time for spring, I say!"

After a couple of tantalizing false starts, spring has officially arrived. The advent of the vernal equinox is always one of the best times to be in Seattle, partly because, duh, it's beautiful, and partly because everywhere you go you bump into someone and instead of groaning, moaning, and droning about what a drag everything is, you basically break out into a joyful, impromptu song-and-dance routine about the sunlight on your face and the optimistic breeze pushing gently through your freshly uncovered hair.

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Spring also tends to remind me of a handful of things musical, literary, and cinematic. Obviously there are a million songs and poems on the subject, but these are the strongest associations for me:

1) The deeply weird, utterly unforgettable cartoon "To Spring," produced for MGM in 1936 by Harmon and Ising and directed (for the first time ever apparently) by William Hanna, later to found Hanna-Barbera. The story is about the little elves/gnomes who live underground and generate all the glorious colors that erupt with the springtime. The odd combination of transcendentalism and paganism makes the short stick in your mind, but the cartoon appears to have been conceived as a showcase for the process of Technicolor, which was still relatively new to films, having debuted in a cartoon short only four years earlier and in a feature film the year before.

2) This bit from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, obviously.

3) The Noah and the Whale song "The First Days of Spring," from the album The First Days of Spring.

4) The poem "In Spring Rain" by Kobayashi Issa.

In spring rain
a pretty girl
yawning.

5) Scott Walker's version of Lenny Adelson's song "Come Next Spring," from the 1968 album Scott 2.

6) The Go-Betweens song "Spring Rain" from the 1986 album Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express.

7) The film Early Spring (Soshun) by the immortal master Yasujirô Ozu from 1956. The semi-related film Late Spring (Banshun) from 1949 is better known and better regarded, but Early Spring is fantastic, too.

8) "Another Spring" by Nina Simone, written by Angelo Badalamenti (!!!) and John Clifford, from the 1969 album Nina Simone and Piano.

No, not "Spring Is Here" or "It Might As Well Be Spring." I mean, yes those songs, but THIS ONE.

9) Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky.

It's often said that this piece of music caused riots the streets of Paris when it premiered in 1913. It's hard to imagine any piece of art provoking such a response today, least of all one as stirring and genial as this one.

10) "The Charm of 5:30" by David Berman, from the indispensable 1999 collection Actual Air, which is surely the book I have purchased the greatest number of times, and given copies of to the greatest number of friends and acquaintances. This one doesn't say "spring" anywhere in it, and is in fact probably about summer, but it feels like the turn of spring in Seattle.

Though the resting position of my heart and nature probably more closely resembles the melancholy disenchantment of Emily Dickinson's "A Light Exists in Spring" ("It almost speaks to me" and "A quality of loss/ Affecting our content,/ As trade had suddenly encroached/ Upon a sacrament"), but I know "The Charm of 5:30" is just as real as Dickinson's quality of loss, and I aspire to maintain my access to it, no matter how late the hour grows.

The whole text of "The Charm of 5:30" is here, but here is a brief excerpt:

It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it's earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.

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You know what I'm talking about,

and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in
the public spaces. You won't overhear anyone using the words
"dramaturgy" or "state inspection today. We're too busy getting along.