It’s one of those days that shout “SPRING,” as if reminding me that the word is not only a noun — it’s also a verb.
In fact, on afternoons as bright, shiny and blue-sky as this one, SPRING seems like an imperative: The weather outside is practically dragging me outdoors in a headlock, insisting that I leave my comfortable chair. It wants me to play nicely in the beautifully manicured back yard that my patient husband has just mowed, weed-whacked and watered.
But I don’t want to go outside. I want to stay where I am, curled up in the sun room with a legal-size pad on my lap and a fresh Dixon Ticonderoga pencil in my hand. I am happy enough waving to Michael as he passes by the window in a regular pattern, diligent on his John Deere.
It’s not that Michael grew up in the country and I grew up in the city. We’re not the couple from “Green Acres.” He’s as much of a city kid as I am, being from New Jersey just across the bridge, whereas I’m from Brooklyn and the Queens-y, not Gatsby, part of Long Island.
And yet, Michael has an affinity for the outdoors that I’ve never developed. It’s probably not only because he was a Boy Scout, a Sea Scout and did his scholarly work on Thoreau, but being New Jersey’s Sea Scout of the Year when he was 15 no doubt had a lot to do with it. From nature, he hears a cheerful invitation.
In contrast, I hear nature offering me Lyme disease. If you ever see me at a picnic, please call the authorities. The only way I’m ever going to be on a blanket on the ground is if I’ve been kidnapped.
I regard nature as a lunatic who indiscriminately throws around black flies, termites, ticks and gypsy moths that leave those weird little black pellets not only beneath your feet but also in your hair if you sit outside for more than five minutes (yes, I know what they really are, so just be quiet with your disgusting information).
Nature sidles up to you and rubs pollen all over you, making the world sticky. Nature often smells funny and requires repeated use of wipes. Nature, basically, is like somebody’s unpleasant 3-year-old. Or a producer.
I like the outdoors best when it resembles the indoors. We live on two acres, and my husband keeps building extensions to the deck so that I’ll go farther into the yard.
And I don’t care what you say about dining al fresco. Within 10 minutes, there will be bugs in the food, and guests will be waving their hands across the table, sometimes through the open flames of candles, in what looks like a religious rite.
I know I’ll get hate mail about not liking the outdoors, as if my personal preference is somehow un-American or wicked or seditious.
I’m ready. It’s happened in the past.
Back in the 1980s in New York City, I did a local radio show on WBAI-FM, which was a listener-run station. On Saturday afternoons, I’d choose a topic and take calls. One day, I was talking about how horror movies shot in rural locations scared me more than ones shot in cities.
The board lit up, indicating that lots of folks wanted to comment.
These were all New Yorkers, remember; the station didn’t have much reach. One guy with an accent like Harvey Keitel started yelling at me as soon as he got on the line. “What’s wrong with you? How can you be scared of nature?” I was scared of this caller, that’s for sure. He continued yelling as he delivered his ultimate argument: “Trees are gorgeous things. Besides, we need trees. What else are we gonna do, build our houses out of meat?” Then he hung up.
That’s when I learned that you can’t argue with a nature lover. I wouldn’t even try; I simply want to explain my indoor perspective. I live in hope that, like Michael, those outside will smile and wave as they pass us by.
Gina Barreca is an author and professor of English literature at the University of Connecticut. She wrote this column for The Hartford Courant. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.