It was just too nice a day to spend it cooped up in the office so I rigged up a quick little workplace, outside, in the shade of my favorite birch tree.
It was turning out to be a great day of work, with the sunshine lighting up my desk and the breeze dancing over my keyboard, lovely birdsong playing all morning long from the high, swinging treetops.
And, best of all, I was just about to close on one sweet-ass deal, putting the final touches on the big proposal that I’d been brokering for my boss all winter long.
I just love the feeling of a good deal going down.
I love everything about it. I love riding the ebb and flow of a tight negotiation. I like catching inside information. I like wrangling over the details. I like that pregnant pause in the action, waiting for the final approval, and I love getting things in writing.
I love it when they start watering down their demands.
That’s how I know when to strike.
And I just love saying the word deal-breaker.
I took a break around ten o’clock, promising myself this would be my last cup of coffee for the day, and tried to catch some spring from the office window.
Wabun the Golden Eagle, Spirit Keeper of the East, was really here…wings spread wide, aloft in full flight.
I could see the callery pears already starting to burst with flowers.
There was also the ginkgo, just about to leaf out, two days after the rise of spring’s first new moon, just as I’d predicted.
Not that I’m the kind of guy who says I told you so.
And I really should catch up with the cherries.
All in good time, I told myself. Once this deal goes down, I’ll have all the time in the world for tree-hunting. I was jumping out of my skin…just one final approval away from the Big Bonanza.
Nothing but blue skies ahead, one hundred percent chance of raining money…the longest, hottest summer ever…Jon Spruce finally living it up in Fat City, nothing but champagne and caviar, cruising around the city in my Cadillac, lighting my cigars with hundred dollar bills.
I got back behind the desk, back on the horn…and that’s when things starting going downhill.
I’m not really sure what happened. Surprise demands, unforeseen commission rates, someone hit reply all and then some schlub in their Accounting Department turned out to have the ace in the hole.
After one short break, the whole deal went lopsided.
Meanwhile, I had my boss on the other line demanding the latest update, wondering what was taking so long.
I tried to get everybody back in the pool but they all had cold feet. Just like that, they were unavailable or they were on another call.
And just like that…no deal, back to square one, back to counting pennies.
From riches, back to rags.
I don’t have the heart to summarize all the nitty-gritty details. Rest assured, citybillies, it’s the same old story.
Heads, they win. Tails, I lose.
The afternoon would be spent sifting through the dust and the damage. My boss was trying frantically to reach me but, if I was going to survive the aftermath, then I needed to step away from the situation.
Step away and catch some spring.
According to my contract, I am allowed exactly one hour for lunch. I usually slave right through it, usually spend that hour at my desk, but not today.
To catch a spring…one hour and counting…the magnolia, the cherry, the willow, the ginkgo and that callery pear…running around the city at a breakneck speed…double-parking with the windows down and the folk rock blaring…boiling over with spring fever, mad as a March hare, catching the wind beneath Wabun’s wings…it’s go, go, go…one hour to catch a full season.
Oops. Fifty-eight minutes now.
Turn on the out-of-office reply…step away, push in the chair…take a message.
Jon Spruce was on a lunch.
Citybillies, dust off those sunglasses and slap down the visor.
Color has returned to Philadelphia.
That dud of a deal was still reeling in my head but, sister, this color sure was helping to soften the blow.
Pick any block in the city, worm your way into a parking spot and take a gander…
…the streets are catching fire.
I wish I could’ve tarried longer.
I wish I could’ve lingered over each blazing tree and each twinkling flower but time was ticking away. That short hour was getting shorter and shorter, only enough time for a hurried photo, a quick catch, and then off to the next block.
I don’t trust spring. I don’t trust it at all. It moves too fast, it barely stands still.
Forty minutes left and counting. Where does the time go?
Spring? You got to catch it while you can and nothing, and nobody, was going to stop me from catching as much spring as I could.
Not even the old people.
I’m sorry but it’s true.
There were old people all over the city that day…struggling to make it down the street, taking up two parking spaces…standing on the stoops, standing on the corner or just standing in the way.
How did they even know it was a beautiful day? The weathermen only tell us to check on the elderly during blizzards and hurricanes. I’ve never been asked once to knock on their door for a spring afternoon.
Well, they must’ve gotten the word somehow.
Running down the street, I had to carefully weave my way around them. Couldn’t go two blocks without seeing some old person standing around doing nothing but smiling at the sun or just strolling through the park or reading a newspaper in the shade.
I even saw an old couple sitting on a bench eating ice cream.
Who’s got time for that?
Spring is a fever, sir. It comes and then it goes. In spring, you read a box score or you eat an ice cream cone at your own risk.
Not me. I wasn’t going to miss a thing.
Take the willow.
Here’s a perfect example.
Look at all those catkins…all those fine filaments…
…you got maybe one, maybe two days at the most, to catch that soft electricity…and then it switches off and runs head-first into summer.
I refuse to lose out on spring…not going to get caught with my hands full of ice cream and newspapers.
I raced over to the parks downtown, leaping over the families on their big blankets, dodging the hipsters practicing their instruments in public, avoiding the bees and scaring the squirrels.
No time to sit around, no time to graze.
I see green.
I see green.
Have you ever noticed?
The way a tree leafs out?
It’s not like a mammal. It doesn’t enter the world, head-first, crowning one body part at a time. It’s not like a reptile or an amphibian either, crawling slowing out of its wet egg.
A leaf enters spring fully shaped.
…and then spends the rest of the growing season growing larger…radially…from the center and out.
You’re not going to see that loafing around on a blanket, giggling away in the gossamer light.
In spring, you get no rewards for standing still.
Sure, it’s going to happen.
Even during this short lunch, there were times when I just stopped and caught a breath, caught a picture and caught a whiff of that spring breeze…
…full of flowers, with just the faintest melody of bees and just the slightest kiss of honey.
And, about half-way through the lunch, I did a waste a few minutes falling in love.
It wasn’t my fault.
I was just minding my own business, walking through a stand of callery pear outside the old Ritz Theater…
…and then she walked by…floating like a feather in the middle of a group of tourists, headed over to Independence Hall…bright red lips, big goofy glasses, the soft breeze blowing her long brown hair in front of her face. She brushed it off her bare shoulders. She was laughing at something her friend had said. Even her laugh had an accent.
Spring’s a fever, man.
But I’ll have time to catch love later…you know what I won’t have to time to catch later?
And I did waste a little bit of time when I ducked into a small convenience store to grab a bag of peanuts, just to munch on something.
Not everybody else.
Everybody else was eating away.
Never seen anything like it. That afternoon, Philadelphia had a ravenous appetite.
Hey, you can waste the afternoon if you want, sitting on a bench in the sun chugging bright green kale smoothies or peeling a bag of clementines, if you're into that kind of thing.
I couldn’t believe how many people were doing nothing, wasting a good lunch, just sitting around eating in the parks…sucking down cantaloupe from Florida or squeezing Israeli oranges right down their throats.
I saw this one woman, sitting under a tree, doing nothing but eating grapes…bright green grapes from California, each one a perfect pearl.
I’ll stick with my bag of peanuts, thank you very much.
Anything more and I would’ve missed out on some great color…
…I would’ve missed out some of the most fleeting monuments of spring…
…all those big, bad flowers stacked up against the sky…
…or all those little blossoms…
…all those lively cobwebs in the center of every flower, snaring sunbeams out of the palm of my hand.
Spring’s a show, man, but it’s a caravan.
It’s a traveling circus.
And I thought this was a rat-race.
Well, this is no rat-race, all these people dawdling around with dazed looks on their faces, this happy parade of dopes and fools.
I just didn’t trust it. Since when did Philly get so happy over weather?
But there it was, right in front of my face and right in my way…people walking down the street, loosening their ties and throwing their suit jackets over their shoulders, people taking a break, people meeting other people, promising to be friends forever…
...people throwing their trash into the trash cans…people having insignificant, silly conversations, just plain ignorant of the spring show bursting right above their heads.
Hey, people, spring comes with a warning label.
What you see today, tomorrow may be gone.
You only get one hour out of the working day. You can’t waste it like this.
You got to be ready at a moment’s notice.
You got to be ready to jump out and catch it.
Sure, you can lift your feet off the ground, just for a little bit…
Sure, you can lift your feet off the ground, just for a little bit…
…but you got to keep your eyes on the road.
You can leave the windows open and you can put it all on hold but you can’t miss it.
Because before you know it, you’ll be right back where you started.
Can’t say I didn’t tell you so.
I returned to a whole mess of emails and voicemails but, before diving back into it, I checked the ten-day forecast.
Looks like the temperature will be dropping for the weekend, bookended with a few days of steady rain.
Yep. And there's Coyote, already gearing up for summer, already up to his old tricks again.
You know, I’ll trade my time for cash just like every other working Joe out there. I guess that’s okay with me.
But the next time a spring day dawns, I’m taking it.
That’s my deal-breaker.