On Spring: Surviving the Brown Before the Bloom


This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m going to just come out and say it. Spring is my least favorite season. I don’t like it. I don’t like the cold. Or the wind. But most of all, the brown.

Actually, most of all, the cold. Or the wind. I can’t decide.

Here’s the thing.

I’m always about 10 degrees colder than everyone else, and during no time of year is this more uncomfortable than spring in Minnesota.

You might think my ever-chilled condition would feel the worst in winter—and, yes, in some cases it does. But in winter, you aren’t trying to pull off a bright and cheery aesthetic that requires cute shoes and bare ankles. In winter, you aren’t yet sick to death of your wool sweaters and Ugg boots. In winter, you aren’t SITTING OUTSIDE ON A LAWN CHAIR watching your kids play sports.

In spring, you are.

Several years ago I bought a full-length down parka for $14.99 at the thrift store. It reaches past my knees and has a furry Eskimo hood. It’s the opposite of fashionable. I call it my sleeping bag coat. And, although I live in a climate that can reach wind chills of 40 degrees below zero, the only times I’ve needed this coat are when it’s 40 degrees above zero (and windy) at my son’s baseball or ultimate frisbee games.

This is my point.

But also THERE’S the brown.

Oh, mercy. The brown. My daughter, who experiences life in metaphors, heard a song lyric last week that compared rainy days to depression. “That’s just wrong,” she told me. “Rain isn’t depression. Rain is sadness. Endless days of gloomy skies and brown earth—that’s depression. Anyone who’s ever been depressed knows that.”

I have to agree. I’m as sensitive to visuals as I am to temperatures, and trying to find a beautiful place for my eyes to land in early spring is a challenge. Visually (for me, at least ) it’s the definition of depressing.

When kindergarten teachers hold up pictures of spring for their students, it’s all tulips and daffodils and yellow, fluffy chicks. Which is cute, but it’s also confusing. Because here in Minnesota, we don’t see any of that fun stuff until weeks and weeks into spring. Meanwhile, we’re slogging through the no-man’s-land of early spring, where every bush, tree, and blade of grass is brownish grayish brown. It’s endless, lifeless muck littered with dead leaves, dog poop, and actual litter as far as the eye can see—often intensified by the gray gloom of a stubborn blanket of clouds.

It’s like someone drained out all the color and turned the visual appeal down to “sorry, not today.”

AT The end of the tunnel

But do you know what it is that wakes up the trees and calls out the blossoms at winter’s end? It’s not the warmer weather. It’s the light.

When all of those dormant living things begin to sense longer days and shorter nights, the miracle of rebirth is set into motion. Long before we see even a hint of green, life is returning, within the woody wombs, beneath the dark earth, just under the surface.

For me, that is the saving grace of spring.

First, the light. The days stretching their length in both directions, gradually offering more and more sun at warmer and warmer angles.

Then, the hope. The certainty that, although I can’t see it, or feel it (yet!), transformation is happening—and if I can simply trust the process, the payoff will come. The green will return. The world will bloom. And my toes will once again sink into a lush carpet of grass. One day soon.


The thing about spring is it’s just so dang elusive. That is probably what I dislike about it most. Spring requires patience—right at the moment when you have none left. The anticipation can be torturous, the tease relentless, the wait tantalizing.

Spring begins as a date on the calendar and we are told it has arrived long before any real sign of it actually appears. But I, too, have been in that position. I have, at times, been named something before I can fully own that reality. I’ve been called an adult before I acted like one, a mother before I felt like one, a valuable person before I believed I was one.

And so is spring. Spring is now, and it’s not yet. It’s here, and it’s coming. It’s dead, and it’s just about to burst forth into full, beautiful life.

Which brings me back to brown. Because maybe the color of leafless trees and lifeless grass might actually be the color of hope and rebirth and good things to come.

And maybe I can learn to love it for all the potential it holds.

Image sources: 1 / 2

BY Julie Rybarczyk - April 11, 2018

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add a comment

  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    April 11th, 2018 at 10:32 am

    I prefer spring over winter, but it’s super hot and humid where I live so spring is horrible! But hey… there’s light at the end of the tunnel like you said, right?

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 11th, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Charmaine – yes! Fingers crossed for that light!! xo

  3. Eva

    April 11th, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    You’re very right about spring, it takes so long to get here and then it’s gone in a flash. I feel you on the brown/gray colors outside, it’s super depressing for photography. On the east coast we’re having a super slow start to the spring and things are only now perking up. The grass looks so sad now, I can only image how awful it is in Minnesota!!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  4. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 11th, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Eva, well actually most of the grass is still covered in snow here right now. Brown grass would be a slight step toward spring – although even uglier than the snow… Here’s hoping for May flowers!! xo

  5. Rachel

    April 11th, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    This! So true. I’m in update NY and am just looking forward to seeing green trees and grass again.

  6. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 11th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Rachel – me toooooo! xo

  7. Mirela

    April 11th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    I absolutely empathize with this, I thought I was the only one that hated spring! To me, spring feels like that needle-like pain in your legs when you try to move them after they have gone numb. You have been fighting back the ice, the wind, the brown earth, the flu and finally your resolve breaks when a store stocks yellow jumpers. In my home country we have a phrase called ‘spring tiredness’, it refers to your body & mind finally giving in to the winter struggles! When SAD finally hits you…

  8. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 12th, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Mirela – Oh my goodness. Spring tiredness. Yes. That is it exactly. And the needle-like pain after a numb leg. YES. You nailed it. So glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. xo

  9. Hilary Grant

    April 12th, 2018 at 2:10 am

    It’s exactly the same here. I live at the very North of Scotland on an island, the climate seems very similar to Minnesota spring. Still feels like winter here. And what’s worse, all you can buy now is the ankle skimming trousers, paper thin coats. Fashion needs to add another season to its buying calendar for sure!

  10. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 12th, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Hilary – I KNOW, RIGHT??? Spring fashion doesn’t work until it’s basically summer around here! Instead we need a new batch of springy-colored wool sweaters and warm pants to freshen things up without freezing for February-April. Fashion industry, take note. xo

  11. Maggie

    April 12th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    THIS! This is absolutely beautiful and so delicately describes a consistent, working hope and faith that transcends the literal seasons. I’ve been in-employed and actively looking for work for 5-months and this is arguably a more relevant article than the one posted yesterday for tips for those who have been laid off. (Can you redirect that traffic this way?) Doing the actions of applying for jobs, interviewing, networking, hustling, etc. is the easy, obvious part – the hard part is maintaining momentum and hope through that work, in the utterly brown shit-scape. It’s the mental and emotional wreckage of spring that’s the challenge. I thought this was beautifully written. And a good reminder for me that the sun is coming, but not soon enough!!

  12. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 13th, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Maggie – Yes! I believe on your behalf that new life is taking root – in the midst of the utterly brown shit-scape. Because, yes, these truths go way beyond our literal spring season, right? The sun is coming, girl. Hang in there!! xxoo

  13. Maggie

    April 20th, 2018 at 8:33 am

    And because I still can’t stop thinking about this – Austin Kleon just posted this quote from Vonnegut.
    “One sort of optional thing you might do is realize that there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn’t feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. Seethe pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. That is when nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. “Unlocking” comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They are Unlocking.”

  14. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 21st, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    Oh.my.good.ness. Seriously. This is it. Yes! Maggie, thank you for passing along this little burst of truth!! xo

  15. Take the Weekend By the Horns – Bull (City) by the Horns

    April 13th, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    […] finally seems to have gotten here, despite being an otherwise hard week. This article was what my soul […]

  16. Michaela

    April 18th, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Like you, I am also always the coldest person in the room. I can detect the air-con clicking on from rooms away, that’s how sensitive I am to any fluctuation. I feel your pain.

    And your daughter really did hit the nail on the head with her metaphor about depression being like gloomy skies and brown foliage. As a long time sufferer of depression, life often feels like a perpetual state of early MN spring.

  17. Julie Rybarczyk

    April 18th, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Michaela – here’s to wool sweaters (even in summer) and finding some hope in the midst of the brown. xxoo

  18. Irshad Khan

    April 27th, 2018 at 4:58 am

    Very Nice images and post too.

  19. Kristin

    May 11th, 2018 at 5:10 am

    this is a great piece, and i can relate so much to your feelings about spring! i’m in michigan, and this winter especially has dragged on and carried over into spring. everything seemed to bloom overnight this past weekend, but it was pretty cold up until that point. i hate winter and tend to experience seasonal depression. i always look at the start of spring on the calendar like it will be a magical end to the sadness winter brings – and that never happens. spring comes and things stay the same for some time. you’re right about just needing to push on and view it as a sign of hope that better days are coming! hope that your sleeping coat is officially back in the closet until next year 🙂

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