When I was teaching, the spring semester was my favorite because, from day one, it just keeps getting better and better.
Starting with longer days. I didn’t like, and don’t like, leaving OEC in the dark. When I can walk out of OEC in mid-afternoon and feel the heat of the sun, my step is quicker, my mind is better and my outlook is brighter.
Then, too, the walk to the car is pleasant exercise rather than taxing ordeal. For cheapskates like me, the four-block walk in the winter from a parking space north of Marshall Avenue to campus is an ear-freezing, finger-numbing exercise. I feel like the pedestrian version of Ice Road Truckers. The cup of Starbucks I carry is lukewarm when I arrive. Ah, but beginning in late March I can put the gloves away and stretch my neck, getting rid of the Minnesota hunch (shoulders up, head down).
And I have things to notice along the way, like the tiny boulevard garden in front of the small, green clapboard house on Wilder Avenue. By the time the semester ends, the perennials are up, the soil is tilled and the onions are planted. The garden is eclectic: tulips and tomatoes, sunflowers and snapdragons.
When the tulips are an inch high, Easter is nigh. I love the solemn dignity of the season, from the distribution of ashes at the beginning of Lent – remember, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return – to the joy of the Resurrection.
The joy of spring is obvious in the faces of the students on upper quad on Friday afternoons, tossing Frisbees, playing catch, lolling on blankets or, in a rare instance or two, sitting against a tree trunk reading a textbook.
Occasionally – and I love to see this – students sit on the grass in a class on the lower quad or the steps of the library, the professor deciding to substitute fresh air and outdoor sunshine for fluorescent lighting and computer graphics. I recall a philosophy class at the University of Wisconsin where we met along the shore of Lake Mendota in the morning to discuss the nature of faith versus the certainty of science.
The student athletes are also outdoors for track and baseball, sports where symmetry and strategy upstage brawn and bravado. The Tommies, both men and women, are pretty good, too, having brought home NCAA Division III championships in baseball and softball.
Finally, I like the nostalgia of being around seniors about to graduate, head off somewhere and put their “game” to the ground. Some have jobs. Most have hopes and a hunch: that the internship, if they did well, might pay off with a 40-hour-a-week gig.
And I found that the senior malaise was tempered by a desire to please the professor, who just might be called for a reference by a newspaper editor in Fargo or broadcast news director in Cedar Rapids.