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New Rites of Spring

todayApril 9, 2022 10

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It’s breeding season for birds in my neck of the woods. I’m keeping an ear out for the mourning doves and pigeons, their magic-hour call-and-response. “The birds’ antics are an invocation to tune in — and to bear witness,” writes Margaret Roach, our gardening columnist.

Perhaps because I’m returning to the office this spring after two years of working remotely, I’m especially attuned to the rituals of the changing season. But even if I’d been out and about with more regularity, as many people have been, I think this year would still feel momentous. Spring cleaning seems symbolic — banish cobwebs from room and mind alike! Lingering outdoors in the ample daylight feels almost like an honor.

For the past couple years, new rites have accompanied the baseboard sweeping and wardrobe changeover: brushing up on social skills, preparing for being in the company of others. Readying for, if not a “hot girl summer” (fool us twice), then at least a temperate-to-warmish girl summer, a season of being out, about and “unapologetically you” while keeping expectations manageable.

Of course, spring cleaning of the mind is no longer confined to spring. The fluctuations of variants require us to balance social contact with social distance, being out and being in, regardless of the season. Sometimes, but not always, these rhythms comport with the calendar. We’re required to be nimble, to shift gears quickly.

One evening recently, I stopped outside a bar on my way home from dinner. The light was living-room dim, the vibe after-work chill. Everyone was dancing. Not full-on, cut-a-rug dancing, just moving their feet and hips languidly, an easy shuffle in time to the music. People were still holding their drinks, but they were all moving, almost as one organism. It was mesmerizing.

When was the last time I’d seen people dance? When was the last time I’d danced myself? It occurred to me that dancing could be an ideal spring reset activity. It allows us to be around other people without worrying about rusty social skills, to be in conversation without speaking.

“Would you recognize the courtship display of a hummingbird?” Roach asks in her column. I definitely would not. But I’m on the lookout now for the ways that humans flap their wings at one another, when they chatter and when they go silent. Whether we’re grooving casually together or making small talk, we’re searching for (and sometimes finding) ways to get comfortable again, to broker the distance between ourselves and others.

  • How to attract birds to your garden.

  • “It can be hard to admit that we sometimes need to be taught how to treat our own bodies, and the bodies of others, with curiosity, courage and tenderness.” Carina del Valle Schorske on a season of dancing.

  • Here is a lovely paean to cycles, in love, art, physics and elsewhere.

📺 TV: “Abbott Elementary” is our critic’s network comedy pick.

🕺 Dance: A treasured postmodern work is onstage in Brooklyn.

🖼 Art: J.M.W. Turner’s 19th-century work is on exhibition in Boston.

The Masters golf tournament: You don’t have to like golf to enjoy the Masters, with the course’s verdant fairways, azaleas and magnolia trees. Listen to the whispered commentary, or just try to identify the bird calls (which officials swear are not prerecorded). And keep an eye on the short 16th hole, where the crowd gets loud and holes-in-one are not uncommon. 3 p.m. Eastern today and 2 p.m. tomorrow on CBS.

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todayApril 9, 2022