Home » Creative writing » March in Chicago Does Not = Sundress

March in Chicago Does Not = Sundress

Photo by Alan Scott Walker via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Michigan’s water is still cold from the tap today, an advantage of Chicago’s sudden eighty degree days in March instead of highs in the forties or so low it could snow. I’m wearing a sundress, feeling clueless and ungrateful because my mind hasn’t quite wrapped around this yet. I can’t help wondering if I’ll have to turn the furnace back on before summer weather takes hold. Warmth in early spring is something Chicagoans mostly dream about. I remembered to say thank you last week once my initial brain fog had cleared, but my body still feels confused.

This warmth feels like a small blessing bestowed from somewhere, somehow. It disturbs my sleep, but it helps me in ways that have become as urgent as the ability to recharge. Perhaps there will be enough pennies saved to pay a bill if my house of cards blows out of reach. I am amazed that I’ve been able to avoid my shapeless winter coat this month, that my dry, dry skin is softening again, that Kitty gets to nap on window sills and feel the breeze ruffle her fur.

Yesterday, when I was out to vote, walking seven blocks to the nearest grocery store afterward, I noticed a strange smell. It was unpleasant in a pungent, organic sort of way, wafting around the residential blocks of my neighborhood, making me look around for something I couldn’t identify. I realized the smell had been coming through my windows for the past couple of days in bursts that made me stare at Kitty and ask if she was all right. She’d been staring back at me, sometimes looking blank, other times with an indignant stare of her own.

Halfway to the store, it occurred to me that it was manure. I couldn’t make it out on the lawns, but as I walked the smell reminded me of springtime when I was a child. It didn’t bother me as much once I’d figured it out. It felt good to think that neighbors were using a truly natural substance known for many years to deliver results, instead of chemicals that aren’t good for any of us. I said another thank you before I attempted to focus on another aspect of spring.

I thought about all the colors soon to bloom.

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25 thoughts on “March in Chicago Does Not = Sundress

  1. Ahh, this is beautiful! I have the same response to the smell of manure – for a second I think “Ew!”, but then I place it and it suddenly reminds me of home. (This isn’t as horrifying as it first sounds, since I was raised on five acres next door to a working farm.) I agree – I’d so much rather have a little natural fertilizer scent than a bunch of chemicals going into the groundwater!

    Also … we have your weather, and we’d be grateful if you’d come get it, please. The cherry trees are in bloom and the daffodils are everywhere, and I am looking out my back window at four inches of snow and still coming down. This is HIGHLY unusual for Oregon in late March, and the novelty wore off as soon as I realized that my kids have no school tomorrow but I still have to work.

    • Oh Bee! I’m so sorry that’s where our weather went. I’m also sorry to tell you how much I don’t want it back. I hope it warms up there soon enough to spare the flowering plants, but I admit I don’t know much about how that works. I just hope the weather gets back to normal for you all as soon as possible.

  2. Good morning LadySparks! And you thought it was your poor Kitty! 🙂 LOL! Enjoy this lovely Chicago weather. I definitely am! I’m thankful for it, and worried none about how long it will lasts. It does wonders for my spirit, and that is a good thing for this Universe!

    “This warmth feels like a small blessing bestowed from somewhere, somehow.” Indeed, it is!

    • Yes, it is a relief, Anna. I hope it doesn’t get cold again before autumn. Cool enough for a sweater and socks, I can take just fine, but I’m tired of six layers. We’ll see what happens.

  3. I love how the little things are so special…the descriptions that you lend are wonderful.
    Even mentioning the dryness of your skin, now becoming soft 🙂 nice. Indeed nothing is really mundane afterall; considering the smell of manure. Have fun and enjoy it.
    As for me, I am in a place where the weather seems to be bi-polar. So, enjoy what you have and I am happy it means so much to you. God bless ya.

  4. Re, i gotta tell you – i love the smell of manure. i am not kidding either. maybe it’s something good from childhood, not sure??? what can i say? hope the sundress weather lasts a while – for you and kitty. continue…

    • That must be some childhood memory, Tony. 🙂 Either that or it’s like people are with the flavor of cilantro. I read that the people who hate it actually have more of certain kinds of taste buds which really do make it taste like soap. So maybe there’s also some scientific reason why the smell of manure works for you. Who knows?

    • I’m with you, I’ve never minded the odor at all. We are too accustomed in this country to neutering every unpleasantness. Manure in the springtime means petunias in the summer. Let there be poo.

  5. It’s funny I don’t especially like it in cities but the smell of horse manure in rural places really brings me back to riding in the trails of New Hampshire’s forests for horse camp when I was young. Smells are quite striking that way. It’s why Foldger’s ads were so effective. They say the ad did not evoke a memory of drinking coffee, but rather of waking up to the smell of parents making coffee when we were children.

    • That’s the truth. I loved coffee before I’d ever had a drop. Damn those ad people are smart. You know that last bit of wisdom you shared reminded me of Don Draper. I can’t wait till Sunday.

  6. Love this post. This is near the time of year when I am driving my son and his friends to school, and we get down out of the mountains and into the flatlands, and they all of a sudden get quiet, shortly followed by the snickering of teenage boys. It happens every spring and it usually takes me a minute to realize the farmers are fertilizing the fields with manure, but the boys think something is happening inside the truck. The more I say, ‘It’s the farmers fertilizing!’ the louder they laugh. Yesterday the world was frozen and snowing. Today the sun was out, it was 53, I left the sweater inside, and inhaled the scents of alder buds. And then sneezed. Thanks for your beautiful prose, as always, bringing me spring in Chicago.

    • Thanks, Lisa. You know there’s something about teenage boys and snickering at moms. It was like that for me during the couple of years I got to hang out with one. It was fun.

      This time of year must be beautiful in the mountains, except for the sneeze. (I’ve been having sneezing fits, too.)

  7. I love this post too (and that exuberant photo!). Your thoughts sound so buoyant, and particularly beautifully so because you sound so surprised and so tentatively grateful, knowing this warm weather could change to cold at any time.

  8. I was just in Chicago! I’d forgotten some friends’ posts about a warm spell, so I was startled to arrive to warmth similar to that I’d left . . . and then, yesterday, to return from the Chicago sunshine to the L.A. gloom. Go figure!

    • Deborah, you left just in time! It’s cold again now. 😦 I feel a little sad to hear you were here and I didn’t know. It would have been nice to touch base, at least for a few minutes over coffee or tea. I hope you had a pleasant visit. 🙂

  9. Lovely Ré – enjoy the weather. We’ve got unseasonal highs too. T-shirts on ! Regarding manure – when Mrs. Monkey and I were just a-courting I took her for a drive in the country. Sooner or later there were country smells. “Urgh”, I grumbled, “smell those sheep.” (Sheep in fields nearby.) “That’s not sheep – that’s cattle, ” spoketh Propective Mrs.Monkey. Sure enough – round the corner – cattle. About an hour later the same situation “Urgh,smell those cows.” (Cows in fields nearby.) “That’s not cows – that’s horse,” spoketh The Wise One. Sure enough, around the corner, horses aplenty in full stream. I was impressed. True story. (She grew up on a farm.) She has a nose for B&ll S*%t , too.

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