Hold on, Boston: Spring Is Coming Back and So Will We

If there's one thing New Englanders know, it's how to bounce back after a stretch of dark days.

Boston in spring. / Photo via Getty.

Spring is coming, and in more ways than one.

Last week I laced up and went for a run around Jamaica Pond in shorts (shorts!), the first time my knees have seen sunshine in months. The park was full of responsibly spaced folks soaking up the first 60-degree day of 2021. On the jog home, I noticed that outdoor grills were being taken out of hibernation and fired up throughout the neighborhood. I could smell them even through my mask—which was, whenever I replaced it after swallowing a gulp of fresh, clement air and sending a smile to the sky, a small reminder to me that this March in Boston remains a little different than years past.

But seasons change. At the same time that the city is starting to wake from its winter slumber, we’re also finally moving with long strides toward the light at the end of the year-long pandemic-tunnel. Yes, Boston, there’s something in the wind besides the scent of charcoal, burgers, and slowly greening grass: Optimism! Honest-to-goodness hope is finally starting to bloom: New coronavirus infections are at their lowest numbers in Massachusetts since October, when days started getting darker and colder and much of life moved inside. Meanwhile, despite a rocky rollout and ongoing obstacles, including important concerns about equitable distribution, vaccination rates are rising: So far, a quarter of Massachusetts residents have received at least one dose, according to CDC stats, putting us ahead of all but a few other states.

There’s going to be a fine line to walk between positivity and pragmatism as we tiptoe through the tulips out of the pandemic and into sunnier days again. But thanks to our dramatic seasonal cycles, New Englanders have excellent practice—and that’s why I really believe that we’re prepared to get this right. It’s the writ-large version of what we handle ever year.

After all, New Englanders certainly known what it’s like to batten down the hatches for harsh months at a time, when 4 p.m. sunsets impose their own form of curfew on our diurnal-mammal activities. And somehow, we manage to keep our gaze forward and spirits high, even when we have no idea how long the bitterness and bleakness is really going to last. Calendar dates are meaningless (three words: April Fool’s Day Blizzard), and if there’s one thing New Englanders understand, it’s that winter doesn’t end simply because you’re tired of it.

Neither does a battle with a pandemic, as we’ve seen over the last exhausting year of moving two steps forward, one step back. Every time we thought we’d started to dig ourselves out, in came another storm. But we did what we always do: We griped about it for a minute, and then we plowed ahead with masks and hand sanitizer.

And now, with vaccine rates rising, outdoor dining imminent, and the general sense that we might finally be coming out of this, those first precious temperate breezes and warming rays of sunshine feel even more meaningful. The lifting of spirits that comes every year around this time is getting a big, added boost by the sense that spring is finally, truly coming for us, as it never really did in 2020.

To be sure, we’re still not in the clear yet—not in terms of the weather (New England is notoriously fickle), and not in terms of the virus. With all the concern over variants, Bostonians risk another surge if we let down our guard too greatly, too soon. And anyway, people have already lost far too much: their lives, loved ones, jobs, businesses. There’s a lot of broken pieces that will take time to put back together.

But all that said, and thanks to the finely tuned barometers in our bones, New Englanders know when the seasons really are shifting in our favor—and it’s not wrong to feel hopeful now. The chill between us is finally starting to break: Every time I get a text message from a friend or family member that they’ve had their first (or second!) shot, it’s music to my ears, like birds chirping outside my window after they’ve flown back from Florida. (Unlike overzealous spring breakers, theirs was essential travel.)

I know that now is not the time to take off our KN95 masks, just like it’s not time to put away our shovels. You’re a New Englander, you know the drill: Any time you get cocky, Mother Nature has a way of putting you in your place. But play it right and we’ve got this, Boston. I felt it again recently, on my way to split a bottle of wine in my friend’s backyard, something we couldn’t do just a few colder weeks ago. On the drive over, I hit a ton of traffic and nearly cursed, cantankerous Masshole-style, at all the damn cahs that are back on the road. But I stopped myself. Normally, busy traffic is a year-round phenomenon round here—but this time, I choose to believe, it was a sign of spring in the city. Beep, beep. Chirp, chirp.