Dreaming of Summer (Reading)

By Anna Cavallo, Associate Editor

Cucumber shoot Recently, our little corner of the Upper Midwest has been experiencing an incredibly early spring warming—temperatures frequently in the 50s and up into the 70s, and mostly sunny. (Often, March is the snowiest month here, offering no signs that the winter doom will ever melt away. It always does, but by late February I think most people have lost hope.)

But this March has been glorious. Within just a few consecutive bright days in the 50s, the massive snow/ice banks lining every curb disappeared. This effectively made roads 2 feet wider, enough to allow the City of Minneapolis to lift the winter parking restrictions that had cut available street parking in half (*ahem*). The warmth also melted and finally dried up the snow that had stuck to the city’s gorgeous parkways, despite plowing, making them once again pleasant for walking and running without having to dodge ice or puddles. (Or worst, the puddles that you think are solid ice until your foot crashes through the thin frozen layer on top.) The sidewalks are no longer uneven, icy ankle injuries waiting to happen. Green shoots are appearing in gardens. My neighbor’s cats are outside, purring as I walk past. Coffee shops, bars, and restaurants have started putting tables outside again. The parkways are packed with runners, walkers, dogs, strollers, couples, families. Spring! Spriiiiing!

All this defrosting has me dreaming of summer. Warm Lake Monster weather turns the Twin Cities into a vibrant scene of natural beauty and urban charm. We have so many things to see and do outside. But possibly my favorite way to enjoy the warmth and the city is merely sitting outside with a book near any of several favorite attractions. On a bench next to Lake of the Isles, especially when the Lake Creature is residing there (right). Or on a blanket near the south end of Isles, under some Spoon&cherryshady trees (where I happened to meet Al Franken a few years ago as he canoed up to the shore directly in front of us). Or at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (left), with its gorgeous lawn. Or at the Lake Harriet Bandshell with live background music.

Most of the time, the people around me and my book are actively engaged in the surroundings. Sometimes I sense that I’m getting strange looks for taking up space without actively appreciating the location. Maybe it’s odd that I love sitting at the Sculpture Gardens and not looking at the sculptures. I suppose, if I got as lost in books as some, perhaps my location wouldn’t matter. But I’m too distracted a reader, whether it’s Harry Potter or a more edifying linguistics text I’m working my way through. I like looking up and enjoying my surroundings as much as I’m enjoying the book. Or maybe, after 5 to 7 months of being denied the opportunity to read outside, it’s just that much more satisfying to sit out there and not be cold.

I don’t generally have a summer reading list, but I do find that I get through more books during the weekend-spent-reading-by-the-lake season. I’m looking forward to what I have lined up, starting with Why We Run, by Bernd Heinrich, and The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver’s latest. (Edifying nonfiction: check; engrossing novel: check.) I can’t wait for the indulgent sunshine, the warm air, the bright glare off the pages… but I guess it’s only early April. I have to wait just a little longer. Oh, spring.

(Top photo: Cucumber shoot, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)