It's Time to Enjoy the REAL Spring

Students at St. Thomas are back from spring break, just as the REAL spring is about erupt on the St. Paul campus. Yep, I know. It’s about time. Spring is my favorite season of the year and this is my favorite place to watch it come – a sensual feast for those who walk slowly, looking and listening.

The most distinct sound of spring, to my ears, is the call of the cardinal, and I’m likely to hear it as I walk along Cleveland Avenue toward OEC. Before I see the red crest, I usually hear the call – fitting to the season. “Good Cheer. Good Cheer,” is the way it sounds to me, just before I spot the caller.

The males are gaudy and gorgeous, but the females – with their brownish red feathers – are subtle and stylish. For reasons unknown to me, I see more cardinals on campus than anywhere since I left my old farmhouse on a little lake in Afton.

For the sights and smell of spring, I head over to Shadow Falls Park, near the intersection of Summit Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard. I swear the river smells a little “fishy” in the spring, or maybe it’s the decaying debris carried in the current. At no time does the Mississippi pack more punch than in the spring, when its waters roil, roll and roar.

And I count a half-dozen shades of green I can see along the banks, from olive drab to forest green to bright green and lime green – all the way from the double balsam to the river birch.

This view of spring has the advantage of blending city and country, nature and noise. In addition to the river and its banks, I can see the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis in the distance and the Lake Street Bridge in the foreground, linking Minneapolis with St. Paul.

One of my favorite harbingers of spring involves students on the Upper Quad throwing things: baseballs, footballs, Frisbees and, occasionally, a lacrosse ball. It’s usually a good idea to walk with your head up as you cross the quad.

But the best spring image on campus involves only one student, and I usually see it on a warm and sunny afternoon as I head to my car. There on a hillside, a few yards west of the Cleveland Avenue sidewalk, is a student – usually a young woman – sitting under an oak tree reading a book. She’s not looking at an iPad, a laptop or a cell phone. She’s reading a book. The scene is not only a throwback to simpler times, it’s charming and soul satisfying.

If you want a quick glimpse of that image, go to and search for “kid under tree reading a book.” You’ll see what I talking about.

Meanwhile, take a walk across campus and enjoy the REAL spring.