Sometimes it can feel like spring doesn't exist in Wyoming, and like winter will never end.
This year has especially felt that way. It didn't help when April started with one of the worst snowstorms we've had in an already long and hard winter. For many places in Wyoming, it was one of the worst storms ever. It broke records in Casper, dumped about two feet of snow on us here, even shut down I-80 between Green River and Rock Springs for the first time in a very long time.
It's frustrating, feeling trapped in an endless winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real threat, the lack of Vitamin D can cause health concerns, people can start to feel cooped up and restless, and the snow and ice can lead to dangerous accidents on the road.
Trying to laugh so we don't cry, Wyomingites tend to make jokes about the notorious winter. We say that in Wyoming "April showers bring snowplowers," that the only seasons Wyoming has are winter and road construction, or that second winter is followed by the "spring of deception" and then third winter. The list of jokes goes on.
Realistically though, it's true that Wyoming doesn't have much of a spring. Lots of times we deal with snow and cold up until there's a sudden upturn in the temperature and our short-lived summer has started.
But at least this week we finally started to see that change in temperature. Along with the other records this winter set for Wyoming, it set the record for the longest stretch of consecutive days with temperatures below 50 degrees recorded at the Riverton airport. The US National Weather Service Office in Riverton recorded the temperature not getting above 50 degrees from November 9 to April 9. That's 151 days. The previous record was 128 days, set over 20 years ago. April 9 was also the latest day in the year Riverton has had to wait to get over 50 degrees.
Starting with that record-setting Sunday, this week is the first time this year that Wyoming has actually consistently gotten weather to make us believe spring could finally come. With temperatures getting all the way up into the 60s here, people are enjoying the heat wave. Of course, it creates flooding risks, and we don't know if it will last, but dang it if we weren't ready to go outside in short sleeves and soak up the sunlight anyway.
Ironically, I think it's the fact that Wyoming doesn't have much of a spring that has made me always stubbornly claim spring as my favorite season (in theory more than in actuality). I guess I've always just clung to the concept of spring and what it means - that winter won't last forever.
This probably goes back to my childhood, when one of my favorite stories was "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." The magical land of Narnia is under the curse of the White Witch that has put everything in an endless winter. Aslan, a magical lion (and Christ-figure), is the one who comes to break the curse. A prophecy foretells that "Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death. And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."
A more recent story I've become attached to that echoes some of the same themes is the Broadway play "Hadestown," based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the underworld, is married to Perspehone. Persephone spends half of the year in the underworld, leaving the world up above in winter. Spring comes with Persephone's return to the world, bringing warmth and growth and life.
In "Hadestown," Hades gets jealous of Persephone's time and keeps her from spending as long in the world above, drastically affecting the winter and summer.
"Weather ain't the way it was before. Ain't no spring or fall at all anymore. It's either blazing hot or freezing cold, any way the wind blows," Eurydice sings.
But Orpheus, a musician, is working on a song to make spring come again - "A song to fix what's wrong, take what's broken, make it whole, a song so beautiful it brings the world back into tune, back into time, and all the flowers will bloom."
This last Sunday, that first day to break 50 degrees in Riverton, was also Easter, a holiday of resurrection, full of the promise of life coming out of death.
I've always loved and hung onto stories like this, full of the hope that no matter how dark and cold the winter gets, it will still come to an end. This applies to the literal winter, but is a picture of the cycles of life, and how hope perseveres and joy can come after pain.
One of my favorite summaries of this concept is in the song "Spring Day" by BTS: "The morning will come again. No darkness, no season can last forever. Maybe cherries are blossoming and winter is going to be over."