The Strangest, Most Beautiful Spring

As many things do, it took the virus a while to travel into Ohio from the coasts. By March of 2020, we were locked down in Columbus all the same. We’d looted our offices of their monitors and chairs and tea bags—leaving all synergies behind—and headed home for the spring. When we woke up the next morning, the neighborhood was silent. The quiet city we could see in the distance churned below the surface, waiting for dark winds to bring the dust storm to our doors.  

The planes were grounded, and so were we. In our neighborhood, we could hear the banging of faraway pots and pans, tiny from playback on someone’s phone. I’d never been so happy to live in Ohio. The only live programming on TV that wasn’t the news was Korean League baseball, where all the players were built like Babe Ruth and hit big fat dingers in empty stadiums. On Wednesdays at noon, our city’s routine tornado siren disturbed the environment, reminding us how lucky we were to be there and not somewhere else, and that we probably shouldn’t enjoy this strange peace too deeply or for too long. 

That spring, I was freshly fallen for someone, and there was a golden dog in the picture. I loved that dog, and he loved his human, and I was starting to, too. He’d never have told us the world had been too loud before, but he clearly enjoyed the quiet, and he chased the squirrels up their trees and sprung into the bushes to get his paws on an old volleyball.  

We shared our front porch with a woman who was a “career coach,” and instead of being sad that people were losing their careers, she decided she’d be angry at UNELECTED public health professionals. On our five-times-daily walks, we’d take an extra lap around the neighborhood if we saw her out on the porch. One morning, she insisted that in a few months we’d forget this corona stuff had even happened, which served as an example of the human need to avoid talking to certain people even when you’re starved for conversation. 

Friends walked by with aluminum mugs full of white wine or mixed vodka drinks and stayed on the sidewalk while we sat on the porch and chit-chatted as if it was a normal Friday night in the neighborhood. We ordered delivery pizzas and delivery houseplants. We walked through the drive-thru at the carryout liquor store. Two dozen more hard seltzers please, and that bag of cheese puffs, why the hell not? My hair grew and grew; I bought bright headbands and became a headband man. I took off my shirt and hacked orphaned roots out of our side planters. I put yellow squash seeds out there and waited for it to rain.  

And when it rained, we sat on our front porch and watched spring emerge from the whole shadow, unaware of all the turmoil. Nature’s accustomed to the gears turning, of course. It might have asked us why we were all of a sudden leaving it alone, why we weren’t making all that racket, but it wouldn’t have risked ruining the moment. So, when it rained, we watched the budding leaves of the trees become pinball flippers and across the empty roads we swear we saw the squirrels playing with chipmunks and groundhogs in the wet grass. The dog whined at us to let him join the party. We saw the cardinals tagging each other, and we realized we hadn’t stopped to take note of spring since we were kids. We’d sped up so fast that one day every year the leaves were on the trees, and we didn’t even so much as nod at that miracle. But the approaching storm had made us still, and we saw the real world again, which is to say the real world that is fine without us.

Photo by Wilfried Santer on Unsplash.

Grant Burkhardt

Grant Burkhardt is a poet and writer, currently at work on his debut collections of poetry and short fiction. He was born in Pittsburgh, spent most of his adult life living in Ohio, and is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Interests include naming obscure baseball statistics from the early 2000s and kitchen-dancing while dinner is in the oven. In 2024, he will earn his Master's in Creative Writing from the Oscar Wilde Center at Trinity College Dublin. More of his work can be found on his Instagram.