April (Snow) Showers

On Saturday morning, the landscape was made to confuse Bing Crosby.

“I’m … dreaming of a white … springtime?”

Some things just come with Colorado living. Like elevation signs at the city limits. Or a faith in the Denver Broncos that defies all evidence. Or – perhaps most of all – the roll-the-dice seasons that give you snow in April, even if it’s only for a day or two.

I got an early initiation into the wonders of Colorado weather, with a blizzard that closed my grade school and knocked out the power … in May. And of course, by the next day the streets and sidewalks were as dry as a bone. It wasn’t exactly a planned part of the curriculum, but it drove its own lesson home.

And yet, no matter how many times it happens, I can still get caught off guard by it. It’s like a weird version of Rip Van Winkle: go to sleep with green grass and weekend plans to weed the garden plot, only to wake up to the latest episode of Second Christmas. (“You’d better watch out …”)

It’s weird. It’s wonderful.

And more often than not, it’s exactly what we need.

OK, put down the torches, pitchforks and angry snow shovels. I know how long a winter we just had. Even for the Front Range, keeping snow on the ground from December until March is a tad unusual. And I know some of you became more than a little tired of it, even while others found a childlike wonder and glee and still others gave the mandatory chant of “Well, we can sure use the moisture.”

But I’m not talking about the snow itself.

I’m talking about the shakeup.

It’s easy to get into ruts and routines. Even when the pandemic hit, our world shattered in an eye blink … and then reorganized itself around a new set of precautions, habits and expectations. After all, it’s exhausting to constantly reinvent everything; slipping into the familiar frees our mind to focus on other topics.

But if we stay too familiar – if we introduce nothing new – we risk stagnating.

The mystery writer Lawrence Block once gave the example of a man stranded on a raft in the freezing North Atlantic. Every day, Block said, he burns a piece of his raft to stay warm. And sooner or later, if he doesn’t find any new material, he’s going to be in trouble.  

It doesn’t have to be huge. A book you’ve never read before. A place you’ve always thought about visiting. An experiment of any kind, even if it fails – maybe even especially if it fails, since that can allow you to learn more for the next time around. (“Rapid unscheduled disassembly,” anyone?)

It can be anything that opens your horizons just a little more and makes you consider something new. Because then a bit of you becomes new as well. And like snow in springtime, that piece can shine with its own unexpected beauty.

By the time this appears in print, the coats may be back in the closet  and the gardening tools back in play. That’s OK. If the unexpected stays too long, it becomes a new routine. Magic, to stay magical, can’t linger.

But the lesson can. I hope we remember it and put it to use.

And if we can, it’s snow wonder.

April Love

As I write this, the Colorado Rockies are sitting on top of the National League West. King of the hill. Top of the heap. Masters of all they survey.

Or, more realistically, the lords of April.

I can see some of the longtime Rockheads nodding in agreement. For the newer fans, excited by the fast start of the boys in purple, let me give you some real-world comparisons for perspective:

“What a beautiful wedding! Oh, that marriage will surely last forever.”

“4-0 in the preseason! I’m telling you, the Broncos are going to crush the Super Bowl this year.”

“He won Iowa hands down. You know it’s just a matter of time before we all start calling him Mr. President.”

“Man, this Colorado spring is gorgeous. Aren’t you glad to finally say goodbye to ice and snow?”

You get the picture?

Yes, our hometown baseball crew is doing well in April. I’m pleased but not terribly shocked. The Rockies always do well in April. They last just long enough to get everyone excited and then a) the first three injuries happen, b) the wheels fall off our pitching rotation and/or c) Dinger the Dinosaur attracts the wrath of the baseball gods merely for existing.

How bad an indicator is it? In 2007, the year the Rockies actually made the World Series, they managed a 10-16 record in April. Mediocre with a side order of painful.

Until, suddenly, they weren’t.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I love the grand old game.

If ever there was a sport where the cream rises to the top, it’s baseball. Sure, there are bizarre flukes and bad calls, just like any other sport. But a 162-game regular season acts as one heck of a filter. When you hit a five-game winning streak in football, you’re playoff-bound for sure. When you hit a five-game winning streak in baseball, it’s … Wednesday.

Well, unless you’re the Marlins. Then it’s more of a miracle. But I digress.

I’ve had friends complain that baseball is too slow a game, that nothing seems to happen. They’re missing the point. Baseball, at its heart, is a game of patience.

There’s no clock. Any moment could be the one that wins or loses it all, however lopsided the score. (Especially with our bullpen.)

There’s a long season. You build the foundation of your season slowly and carefully, to where an unusual two weeks may mean nothing – or it may be the capstone of everything you’ve been working toward.

And there are players behind the players, always building to the promise of tomorrow. Baseball has perhaps the best-developed minor league system of any sport, a farm ground that allows you to watch not just today’s stars but the potential for years down the road. (Assuming they don’t get swiped by a richer club, of course, but that’s an argument for another day.)

It’s a life lesson turned into a sport, that you don’t have to win every at-bat, or even every game. But if you do the small things right enough, often enough, over time the small things become the big things.

It isn’t all staked on one April.

Sure, I’ll sit back and enjoy the Rockies’ wins. For today, they’re good. For tomorrow, there are no promises. Such is baseball. Such is life. A good beginning has to have follow-through if it’s to be more than a memory.

Maybe it’ll be there. Maybe not. We’ll see. Patience now, patience always.

Yes, the Rockies are truly towering. But only time can tell if they’ve peaked too soon.