Raves: Return of sunshine finally puts spring in her step again

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Can it be true? Is spring really here in Pittsburgh? It certainly felt that way as I walked my dog Sunday. By mid-afternoon, the temperature was up to 65 degrees. Hallelujah, the sun has risen!

After a particularly long, gray, soul-sucking winter, even the tiniest glimpse of sunshine is a reprieve. Lest I miss a moment of this fleeting golden treasure, I grabbed my dog and headed outside to bask in its glory.

As I pulled into Pine Township Park, I was caught off-guard by the sight of hundreds of whirling, screaming, green-and-white-clad children; youth soccer had begun, a sure harbinger of spring. A few passing showers ensured lots of muddy cleats and dirty knees, but the parents plopped in lawn chairs perched along the sidelines seemed thrilled with the uncharacteristically warm and sunny start to the soccer season.

I parked my car down by the pond, eager to embark on a brisk hike through the scenic, wooded trails with my canine companion. Ruby is a dog who loves to be in the woods, which I attribute to the beagle half of her lineage. She could barely contain her excitement as she leapt out of the car.

Ruby's tail wagged at high speed as she sniffed and prodded frantically through the small patches of newly green grass and the damp ground coming alive with insects and moles. As we walked along the pond's perimeter, we were greeted by an adorable little boy -- no more than 3 or 4 -- who had broken away from fishing with his dad to pet the "nice doggy."

He told me all about the lessons his dad was teaching him -- to pay attention and be very, very patient because the fish were just waking up after their winter nap. (Do fish really hibernate, I wondered?) I smiled reassuringly at his dad.

Continuing my lap around the pond, I waved hello to a few more patient fishermen while Ruby barked ineffectually at the geese that were too busy fighting for prime waterfront real estate to be bothered with a slap-happy dog. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with air that felt pure and clean, trying my hardest to ignore the budding allergens.

I strolled in happy oblivion with a bounce in my step. It's funny how that first warm spring day makes you feel renewed, so full of energy and optimism. I smiled when I spotted three tiny, bright yellow dandelions poking their heads up proudly, as if to say, "Look at us -- we were here first!"

I rounded the lake and entered the wooded trail, where the distant soccer game sounds were replaced by the happy chirping of baby birds in their nests and shrill responses of mother birds flitting from tree to ground in search of food. I came out of the woods and started down a gravel path that crosses Pine Park, where I ran into a young girl and her parents carrying pails and nets.

She politely asked if she could pet my dog, then excitedly told me about the three snakes they had just found! She assured me that the snakes were harmless and only in the swampy marsh where the family had been exploring. Nonetheless, I walked paying a bit more attention to the placement of my feet.

I re-entered the woods on the other side of the park, following a beautiful, single-lane trail that wound its way back across to the pond. I smiled at the bright sunlight flickering down, unfiltered, through trees whose branches were covered with tiny leaf buds.

As I came out of the forest, I spotted an elderly couple picnicking on one of the park benches, sun warm on their backs. They looked content, simply enjoying the bright afternoon, and I hoped that the spring air made them feel youthful and full of life.

I circled the pond one last time, watching a man coast slowly down the park road on his Harley. I wondered if he would spend his whole day cruising through the scenic hills of Western Pennsylvania.

I came home from my walk feeling happy and hopeful. Spring is like a cool, cleansing antiseptic that makes everything feel new. It revitalizes us with lively thoughts and ambitious plans -- this week I will clean out my closets, wash the windows, etc.

Hopefully, this spring, my newfound resolve and energy will last longer than the sunshine and warm temperatures. This is, after all, still Pittsburgh!


Patty Langer, of Pine, can be reached at pjlanger@consolidated.net.The PG Portfolio welcomes "Raves" submissions about something local that excites you, in addition to other reader essays. Send your writing to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.

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