I went for a jog this past Sunday in the park where I always run. There is a dirt path that is buried deep behind the trees and reaches back for miles, before returning full circle to lead right around to the beginning of the clearing. It is a winded path, carved beside a lake on its right-hand side and then about two miles in deeper, past the fishing dock and the bench areas among the flowers, a creek. The path is serene and tranquil and secluded from the rest of the world, and when I run I sometimes forget that just a few acres away lies the very much industrialized part of the city of Greenville. When I watch as my feet kick up the dirt in a cloud behind me, while I take long inhalations of the crisp, fresh air in one simple, long stride, is when I appreciate the quiet escape and solitude the hidden path provides the most, although I am smart enough to know to never enjoy the sensation, or the run for that matter, alone.
This Sunday I took my roommate Jill along with me. She is one of those old friends who can walk beside me and not have to say a word to me without the silence being strained or awkward between us. We both like the silence most of the time, and we both like nature and taking in the scene and the big picture surrounding us, so sometimes we actually prefer it that way. We usually run together anyway.
This Sunday was beautiful. The sun was out, shining between the trees and falling on the path in the shape of different leafed patterns. The sky was an electric shade of blue. Somehow the trees seemed to be just a little bit greener than they were a week ago, and the flowers a little more popping and lively. The birds were chirping between branches, although we couldn’t see but a few. There was a light breeze, but it was warm as we ran against it. But for the first time since the weather heated up down here in North Carolina, the path associated something different with it.
There were boats in the lake when we passed by, and there were people sitting in them while they fished, and there were people sitting on the banks fishing and lounging and picnicking. There were families with young children walking along next to us, couples on bikes zooming by and kicking up their own dirt clouds before us, and other runners echoing their music from their iPods as they ran past us. The path was no longer secluded, but alive. It was crowded. People were everywhere. I turned to Jill and asked her what was happening around us. She told me it was the first day of spring.
I turned over the idea of spring in the park for the rest of my run as I came to the creek and circled back around to the opening. In more ways than one, the beginning of spring in the park reminded me a lot of the beginning of spring in the Wildwoods.
The Wildwoods, like the park, is quiet in the winter, so quiet that it is almost dead. Scarcely are there people around. Rarely are there noises, and if there are, it is the sound of a single passing car. Everything seems to be sleeping. Colors even seem to be duller. But then there is that first day of warmer weather, and the island seems to awaken from winter slumber and start moving again as it transitions from a nestled ghost town into a thriving summer resort area.
Spring in the Wildwoods is the major rebirth of the summer chaos. Businesses start opening one by one for the upcoming season—restaurants and amusements and activity rental places and antique and clothing shops. The beach no longer becomes just a place to walk the dog, but a place to take a towel down and perch by the ocean and relax, while the sun beats down behind you. Bikes come out of the shed. Boats come out from the dock. Flip flops come out of the closet.
But the main comparison that my park shares with the Wildwoods is the company of other people. Every weekend of nice weather in the spring seems to draw a bigger crowd than the weekend before it, until eventually, people flock all at once by the car-full to rush down to the shore in order to snag a prime spot on the beach, or to play miniature golf, or whatever outdoor activity is of burning anticipation at the moment.
So here comes the spring: the warm weather, the sun, the activity, the colors and most importantly, the people. And with spring also comes the awakening of the island, as every local make preparations for island life in another prime time summer season, usually complexly busy. That is why every local knows to appreciate spring before the franticness of the summer kicks in full swing. But that does not mean to say we do not look forward to summer. I know I, for one, cannot wait to be back in a few months for another season.