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COLUMN

In Search of Spring

Veena Thomas

This past weekend, my friend Erin came to visit me over her spring break. She attends college in Maryland, so I warned her that it would be cold here. Indeed it was a rather cold weekend, especially for March, with some snow and the usual bitter wind.

Erin arrived Saturday afternoon, a rather nice day weatherwise. She told me that she was bringing home all of her sweaters since she wouldn’t need them anymore in Maryland. I, in a long wool coat and wool sweater, smiled wistfully. She told me that I looked very sophisticated in my black wool coat. Sophisticated? It’s the only way I can find to keep warm, I told her. I’d rather wear a long coat than long underwear. I bet they haven’t even heard of long underwear in Maryland.

Erin describes her campus as like “a park.” She’s told me stories of the intense sunshine, the warm weather, and the beautiful campus. Apparently they have unusual wildlife. Someone had given an administrator on campus five peacocks as a gift, and three of them remain, free to wander around campus. I would think that having two males and one female would be a difficult situation, but the students are treated to displays of the males’ plumage in an attempt to attract the female. But peacocks aren’t all they have there -- she told me about the seagulls on campus. I felt sorry for as when she described how they had to walk through the snow. Seagulls should never have to see snow; they should be in Cape Cod in the summer or somewhere like that.

While waiting for a T to bring us back to MIT, Erin told me that she had brought me “a bit of spring.” Wow, spring. Somewhere in the middle of February the decent weather gave me hope that I could see spring soon. But the onset of March, which I always associated with spring, dashed those hopes. The temperature in the mornings was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. (My 5.60 mind immediately realized it would be rather nice out at 20 degrees Celsius, but not so nice at 20 Kelvin). I had forgotten about spring.

We got off the T at Kendall and I hoped that she would like the campus. I have loved it ever since I had gotten here, and now it’s become a second home. But after leaving the T stop and walking past the medical center, I saw the campus through the eyes of a stranger. No, we don’t have peacocks. As a matter of fact, the only wildlife we have here are the pigeons on the steps of the student center, the squirrels, the occasional bird flying through Walker, and the mouse I saw on the T tracks that morning. I hadn’t realized that we don’t really have sun either; Cambridge weather is uniformly cloudy. And I didn’t wear shorts in January like she did.

But MIT is near and dear to me, and so I was determined to impress her with our campus. While it may not be as beautiful as hers, I think it has its own special merits. With that in mind, I showed her how the beams and archway near the media lab spell out “MIT”, how the sculpture near the Green Building blocks the wind so the revolving doors don’t spin around, the echoing benches outside of building 16, and even how Kresge is one-eighth of a sphere. I told her that we have the longest straight corridor in North America, and that our underground tunnel system is the third longest in the world after the Pentagon and the Kremlin. I’m sure she was duly impressed. Then we got back to my room which overlooks the river and the Boston skyline, and she unpacked. After some searching, she pulled out her “bit of spring”: a pressed violet that she said grew outside her library. Now it was my turn to be impressed.

I suddenly realized that we have no violets on campus, and flowers in general are hard to come by. We may have gardens, but what about random flowers like those beautiful purple and yellow ones in our senior lounge in high school that Erin taught me were johnny-jump-ups as we lay there in the sun one day? Where are the flowers here? Does anyone else miss them? I understand it’s still officially winter, but where are the daffodils, or even dandelions? I wish we had some sign of spring around here.

There’s more to life than just statistics and technological wonders. I didn’t come to MIT because I liked a picture in a catalog, but just because we are MIT students doesn’t mean we do not appreciate flowers and springtime. Until I don’t see my breath in the mornings anymore, I will have a single pressed violet on my desk to remind me that spring still exists, somewhere.