Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Spring Fever
Nature Bulletin No. 339-A   April 5, 1969
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Rarest mood of all the year !
Aimless, idle and content -
Sky and wave and atmosphere
Wholly indolent, (James Whitcomb Riley)

Every year there comes a balmy sunny day in early spring when: "The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land". A gentle wind is laden with the perfume of greening grass and of rich warm mold beneath the fallen leaves. As Tennyson said "Then the young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love". Then's when city folks ache to be out in the country, get horizontal and laze in the sun. Then's when boys play hooky, and some of us oldsters, too.

Thoreau wonder why, when "the grass flames up on the hillsides like a spring fire . . . as if the earth sent forth an inward heat to greet the returning sun . . . the jailer does not leave open the prison doors -- why the judge does not dismiss the case -- why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation! " After being cooped up and bundled up all winter, folks want to loaf and soak up sunshine. They get spring fever: that lazy listless feeling when you just don't give a durn about nothin'.

Grandmother knew the cure for it. She brewed sassafras tea, dosed us with sulfur and molasses, and put away our long red flannels. Then she gave us a basket for gathering the tender leaves of young dandelion and wild mustard which she aimed to cook with sowbelly, and shooed us out of the house. She knew blamed well that we would head for the "crick" because then's when catfish are easiest caught and taste the best.

As we moseyed through the woodland carpeted with pink-and-white spring beauties, we gobbled handfuls of the pungent leaves of wild garlic and leek. The timber rang with the warning "Thief ! Thief ! " of the bluejays, the sweet whistle of the redbirds, and the "Wicker, wicker, wicker" of the flicker as he paused from drumming on a tall dead snag. Sometimes we'd hear the wild scream of a red-tailed hawk, or the clamor of a flock of crows when they spied him. In the valley beyond the woods, we'd flop down on the matted sod and bask in the sun; nibbling on new blades of grass; listening to the vague mournful call of the turtle doves, and the chuckle of the brook as it came tumbling out of a gully; idly watching the fleecy clouds that floated slowly across the bright blue sky and wishing we could soar around up there like a turkey buzzard. Time stood still.

Cook County folks are lucky: they've got 60,000 acres of forest preserves where they can do just what we did long ago. If you want to see and hear songbirds, find a comfortable vantage spot in some meadow near a woodland fringed with hawthorns, wild crabs, chokecherries and sumac. Take a nap. If you like to fish -- and there is something about it that smoothes out the wrinkles in a weary mind -- there are many good places for that. Or perhaps you'll enjoy loafing near a slough where the shrill clamor of frogs and toads rattles on and on; where wild ducks feed and rest on the glinting water,. where herons rigidly wait to spear a frog or minnow; where you may see the V-shaped ripple of a swimming muskrat and hear the rusty songs of red-winged blackbirds perched on last year' s cattails .

If you insist on walking -- for goodness sake ! -- saunter. Take it easy. That's the cure for spring fever.

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