Helios, Ra, Mithra, Sol, call it what you will, the sun is back. Spring is springing, gradually but actually. This morning in Central Park, I had to shoo the robins from my path as I sped along. Spring fever, why do we feel more joyous in the spring?
For primal reasons. Foremost, our forebears spent some 65 million years traveling along leafy highways above the ground. Green was all around. They also descended into the open meadows that wove between the jungle trees to roam another universe of green. I suspect we still dimly feel this heritage as we fill our eyes and lungs with spring.
Then there are all the colors, sounds and tastes of spring. Pink petals, whizzing bugs, asparagus and strawberries. After months of gray and white and winter foods, these sensory experiences are novel, exciting. And novelty stimulates dopamine circuits in the brain, circuits that can bring optimism and elation.
And of course, we undress in spring--flinging off the winter coat and hat, the scarf and gloves and boots, and begin to parade our “stuff.” The excitement of “people watching” can also trigger the brain’s natural stimulants, heightening pleasure.
I still remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank years ago. Anne wrote of what she did and thought as she and her family hid from the Gestapo in the home of family friends. In the spring, she particularly liked to lay her head beside a boarded-up window and draw in the fresh spring air that seeped through the cracks.
This image haunts me every spring. I know Anne’s craving. I suspect our ancestors began to yearn for spring soon after they began to spread north from Africa over a million years ago.