Pursuing the joys of spring
No longer young, Bruce Stutz undergoes risky heart surgery which leaves him in the depths of post-operative depression, something physicians call pumphead when their patients aren't listening. He wakes up strangling on a breathing tube. His hospital roommate screams to be taken to the animal hospital. Welcome to aging. In just a few pages of Chasing Spring: An American Journey Through a Changing Season, Stutz somehow captures the whole experience of sickness and hospitalization the disenchantment with humanity, the loss of confidence in the future, the sense that the party is over and it's all downhill from here. But Stutz doesn't settle into his rocker and start decaying, he fights for his recovery. Not so much a physical recovery, which has been more or less secured by successful surgery, but a spiritual recovery. What's the cure for spiritual winter? Spring, of course. So Stutz sets out to experience spring its symbols, indicators and rituals. He begins in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the famed groundhog oracle. Next stop is a rural Mardi Gras celebration in which local Cajuns start drinking and chasing chickens at around 10 in the morning. In a vintage Chevrolet Impala, a fit companion and analogue for our hero himself, he chases frogs, salamanders, morels and caribou in a trip that spans the North American continent. Stutz chases not only an ever-changing horizon, he also tracks scientists who can show him the biological meaning of spring. From West Virginia to Arizona, Montana, Oregon and Alaska, he pursues the magical chemistry of warmth and light, the mystical parents of life itself. Stutz's journey ends in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. With 96 hours of unbroken daylight, Stutz swears the wildflowers are actually blossoming before his eyes. And, at this point in the story, the reader notices something. Stutz's style now reflects the awe and reverence he feels in the presence of life's raw force. He's drunk on spring. In his own words, I've begun to identify my existence with that of the season's, imagining that all of spring's transformations, enticements, multivarious sensual and fragile beauties (for which I've been an obsequious sucker) have all been proffered for my benefit. . . . I've fallen in love with the spring of my own being.