The Itchy Restlessness of Spring Fever

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”  ― Mark Twain

It’s true, I came down with a case of spring fever again this year, beginning in February — the symptoms were clear: itchy restlessness, daydreaming, and questioning the choices in my life — wondering what the future holds for me. Desires and appetites grow stronger. I begin to wear clothes outdoors that are inappropriate for the weather, light jackets, short-sleeves, go sockless with canvas shoes or sandals with snow underfoot.  

I wake up earlier in the morning and rise before dawn. I crack open the screen door to smell the earth begin to thaw, and watch the characteristics of the daylight change, the relationship of the sun to earth. Instead of reminiscing about the past, I’m more likely to think about the future and what lies ahead. I want to move, awaken my senses, feed my desires.

Moonsets and mornings. As I write, the full moon is my companion, peering in my window, keeping me company. It hangs suspended in the sky and looks like a night light. The March full moon is known as the Worm Moon. It’s the time of the year when warmer temperatures thaw the ground and earth worms reemerge, inviting the return of migrating birds who feed on them.

Full Moon in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, March, 2017. Photo Credit: Dede Schlimgen

First Signs of Spring

Migrating birds are aloft on the wing and songbirds greet the morning, sure signs of the changing season. As the snow melts and the sun begins to thaw the earth’s mantle, you can smell the vernal muskiness as the grass, once dormant, begins to turn green, and buds appear on the trees. Soon flowering bulbs will emerge from their winter hibernation. Spring is a time of reawakening, both in the natural and spiritual worlds.

Spring Tulips (look out the window and there’s snow, spring in Wisconsin).

Though it’s always a challenge at first — adjusting our circadian clocks carries a degree of a health risk — but yields a reward — more daylight. We’re required to tweak our biology and behavior changes in our day-night cycle. For some it’s not worth the effort and there’s a movement to discontinue daylight savings.

Wisconsin Film Festival

Each year, I take two staycations, one in early fall, the waning days of summer, and one during the waxing daylight of spring at the end of March or early April. Let me clarify. I still show up at work each day for my spring staycation, I don’t leave the city, yet I’m transported to places all over the world. After work and on the weekend, I become a filmgoer and attend the Wisconsin Film Festival (WFF), which for me for the past few years has become an annual rite of spring.

I meet unforgettable people both on the screen and the filmgoers waiting in line to see movies and while sitting next to me inside the sold-out theaters. I’m an old-school movie fan. I still enjoy being in the audience of a movie theater sharing the experience with companions and anonymous others. One of the fandom features of the film festival is that people actually talk to each other while waiting in the queues to buy tickets, or to see the movie. Festival filmgoers chat each other up inside the theater too, before and after the films.

I ordered my tickets yesterday online. Each year, a couple of days before tickets go on sale, Madison’s weekly newspaper, Isthmus, publishes the film guide and the WFF website features the online film guide and options and tips for ordering tickets. The WFF is the largest University-sponsored film festival, and shortly after tickets go on sale at noon on Saturday, some films quickly sell out. Cinephiles, like me, must design a strategy for buying tickets.

Some years I stood in line, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend, and often made new filmgoing friends. One year, I was happy in that I was about 10th in line and was confident I would easily receive all my picks. That year the ticket box office computers crashed and after an hour in addition to the hour I waited before the box office opened, by the time I placed my order, phone and online orders sold out a couple of the films on my list.

After that experience I decided to try ordering by phone and online. Both options posed their own challenges. One year online, I like many other ticket-buyers, experienced issues, which prevented us from completing our orders, until the problem was resolved. Phone orders are reliable, once you get past the busy signals, which may keep you trying for extended amounts of time. To the credit of the festival organization, each year improvements are made to streamline the process and attempt to minimize problems. This year a new ticket-ordering website also encountered issues and I was booted out of the queue three times, but in the end, gratefully got all my movie selections.

Since I’m now working a part-time schedule, and have Fridays off, I ordered a total of 13 tickets. I’m able to see films earlier in the day, and all day on Friday. On Sunday, I’m out of town celebrating my father’s birthday, yet I’m planning on seeing more films than in the past. As always there are choices to be made based on logistics, timing, conflicts with other choices, etc.

Again, this year there were films I wanted to see but it didn’t work out including: Divided We Fall, The Freedom to Marry, Neruda, Personal Shopper, Things to Come, and Whose Streets. I’m happy with the films I will see which include a mix of narrative, documentary, animation, shorts, and Wisconsin’s Own. I also broke two of the rules I make every year, I’ve selected a couple of late night films (for me, after 8:00, I’m an early bird by predilection) and on Saturday, I’ve chosen four films when in the past, I decided three was my limit. Oh well, some rules are meant to be broken!

Now that the frustration and anxiety is behind me, stay tuned for my dispatch from The Wisconsin Film Festival when I review the films I saw. Like any vacation or staycation, all the preparation and bumps along the road, are worth the final experience.


One of the itches I scratch when spring fever hits is the restlessness that’s a byproduct of the isolation that winter in a northern climate creates. I want to get outside, be with people, get active again. Though I have a pretty abundant and fulfilling social life, which includes friends, family, and workplace colleagues and social change and writing groups, as a single person, I begin yearning again for an intimate, romantic relationship. This desire increases when couples become more visible outdoors, holding hands, and acting like new lovers.

I’m not alone in my desire to connect with others. In the past week, I’ve talked with three exes and made plans with each of them, an ex-husband who picked up the phone to check-in, my long-time partner and I made plans to catch up and have dinner later this month, and a former friend who I’ve been estranged from have decided that it has been too long, and life is too short to let the emotional cut-off continue. Some relationships take time to heal, both people must be willing to step up, let go of hurts and resentments, forgive, then hold on tight to what remains and build on it.  It’s like restoring an old house, first a design for rebuilding, followed by demolition, then renewal.

I don’t know whether there’s romance ahead of me, but there is love, and where there is love, there’s hope.

Road Trips & Getaways

Another sure sign of spring is my desire to hit the road and take a trip, even if it’s just a day trip driving in our scenic state, with or without destinations in mind. Sometimes the best road trips are unplanned excursions making unexpected discoveries along the way.

When time and budgets permit, it’s also fun to plan a long weekend getaway to a cabin or camping up north, or a hotel weekend in a city like Chicago.  It’s been awhile since I’ve planned and went on what most people would consider as a “real vacation.” Regardless, whether it’s a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a real vacation, the planning is as much fun for me as the actual experience.

Reality Check: It’s Still Winter in Wisconsin

Though I have a confirmed diagnosis of spring fever, and the daylight is longer beginning today, it’s not officially spring until March 20th, and that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the weather will be spring-like.  In fact, here in Wisconsin there are blizzard warnings for the next 24-36 hours with an estimated 5-8 inches of snow accumulation. March snowstorms have been notorious in the past for everything from sleet, ice storms, thundersnows, and heavy, wet, slushy storms, and slippery roads.

Yes, one sign of the itchy restlessness of spring fever is the uncontrollable desire for winter to be over!

Spring Fever

Spring tides ebb and flow,
surge and crest,
flowering bulbs begin
to inch their way to daylight,
dormancy ends as shoots
break through the frost line
while the sun’s infrared heat
vibrates with a frequency that
radiates energy, liquefying
winter’s frozen mantle.

You can smell the earth,
the vernal muskiness of life awakening.
I wake earlier too and rise before dawn
to see the morning light in pink
and periwinkle hues, wispy clouds
like crinoline scrims across the horizon.
As the sun shines directly on the equator,
day and night become equal, the Spring Equinox arrives.

An itchy restlessness overcomes me;
it’s time to be reborn,
rethink my choices, ask the big questions,
the who am I, where am I’m going,
what does it all mean — mind wandering,
soul wondering, seeking.

The natural world ignites
my limbic brain like match to wick.
I’m fired up. I burn brighter,
as body memories spark emotions,
motivate movement.
My body craves raw foods, nuts and seeds,
leafy vegetables, red meat.
I forage for the fuel to drive me.
Desires and appetites grow unsated,
I want, I want, I want.
I am, I am


Additional Related Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!

Fall Forward, Spring Back

Winter Blues & Spring Fever

March Madness & Spring Fever

Spring Has Sprung

The Changing Seasons

Light & Shadow

Snow Days

A Filmgoer’s Takeaway: The 2016 WI Film Festival

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