Clementines: they’re called mandarinas in Spain, and when I was studying there in the fall of 2006, I picked a glut of the sun-warmed orbs from a tree in the mountains of the Alpujarras. I wore layers of scarves, because even though the sun warmed one side of my face, the wind knifed its way down the back of my neck. I was raised in the Midwest, so had no experience picking anything off a tree but the occasional late-season, squishy apple; so even though I tried to act blase about the whole thing, I eventually plopped down right under the mandarina tree and peeled away the rind of a particularly heavy fruit. The peel came away easily, smelling like a winter flower. I listened to the shriek of an unknown bird as I ate the segments down to nothing.

I am February cranky, sun-starved, craving warmth, looking for spring. It hasn’t been the rainiest Seattle winter I’ve experienced, but by February, even four months of intermittent rain starts to drag on my spirit. So I eat mandarinas and cling to the memories of sunshine of the past. I stand over bubbling vats of lemon marmalade. I water my anemic bamboo and daydream about lush growth. I run my hands over citrus displays at the co-op, forcing whoever is shopping with me to stop and wait while I heft pomelos, too big to fit in my hand. I succumb to buying out-of-season strawberries, and feel a knee-jerk urge to cry when they taste dry and woody and of nothing. Even though I know the outcome will be this way, year after year, I can’t help it.

What do you do to create spring when it seems so far away?

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