So, I’ve been living in Paris for about seven months now, and I thought I had more or less gotten used to being here, but then something happened. Flowers started to bloom at the tail end of February. Then the grass got greener. All the rain we get here suddenly started to seem like a good thing because we could finally see some immediate results. Then, leaves started to come out on the trees. It’s SPRING!
Before moving here, my husband and I had been going back and forth between Paris and DC twice a year for a few years, but neither of us had ever been here in April before. April in Paris. The phrase rings all kinds of bells. There’s a song. There’s a movie. There’s a general feeling that, as time-place combinations go, April and Paris are pretty much as good as it gets. But come on, right? Spring has roughly the same effect on most places in temperate zones: rain, then flowers, leaves, maybe some bunnies, then summer. It’s lovely. But how different could it really be here than anywhere else? Well…I don’t know. I really, truly don’t. But it is.
Maybe it’s about watching an ancient city—full of medieval buildings that have been in continuous use for a thousand years, and Gallo-Roman ruins that make them look new—come to life again after a long, gray winter, as though the people who gave all those places their vibrant histories might come back to us, too. But you don’t have to be thinking about the age of the buildings or the contents of the history books to feel the change in the air, or to see it all around you.
I’m tempted to say that sunlight is a different color on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe even different in France than it is in Spain or England. Is that possible? I guess I would need a physicist or a painter to answer that question. But traditional spring and Easter colors always felt sort of silly to me before—more of a stylized reference to springtime than a realistic representation of anything in nature. Just for kids, maybe. But I was looking out over my balcony yesterday across the park in front of my building, and I’m telling you—the sky was that perfect, robin’s egg blue that makes you smell fresh air just by looking at it. The half-formed spring leaves on the trees were that unmistakably springy green that still has a lot of yellow in it, and just screams to be painted on an Easter egg. The blossoms on the flowering trees by the foot bridge were the Pinkest. Pink. Ever. Suddenly, the frilly ribbons on Easter baskets, the colors that come in those grocery store packages of Easter egg dye, and even big cellophane bags of jellybeans…are beautiful.
Now, Northern Virginia was my home for twelve years, and even Paris cannot compete with our neighborhood in Alexandria for the amazing quantity, enthusiasm, or breathtaking beauty of our spring flowers, and certainly not for the pure and unblemished blueness of our skies. But having grown up in the Frozen North, springtime in the mid-Atlantic always felt very short to me, like a two-week window of flowers and sticky pollen on everything before summer and the stifling heat took over. This year, at least, my first spring in Paris is taking its time. It feels like a real luxury that the sights and scents of new life—and the feeling of renewal that goes with them—should last for well over a month.
In my childhood hometown in up-state New York, spring comes much later, mildly, but sweetly. Summer is short. Winter is long. Autumn is spectacular. I am always homesick in the fall. But I’ve got the bug now. The cliché flu. Springtime, April flowers, Easter eggs, and beribboned baskets will now and forever after always make me think of Paris.
What about you? Has spring sprung yet where you live? What is your favorite thing about springtime in your hometown? What is the one thing about it that is more special, more magical to you than anyplace else on earth?