KEVIN TATE: Riding with the windows down lets the sunshine in

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

As each day’s sunshine begins arriving earlier and staying later, highlighting the blooms along the roadside on my way home, I feel blessed all over again to watch the world wake up from another winter.
Sunshine helps me find my place in the world, helps me remember who I am, helps me remember my favorite things. New Year’s Day is good for bowl games and serves as the kickoff for the South’s most serious stretch of deer hunting, but I’ve moved most of my celebrations of the new year closer to the first signs of spring.
By now, the crappie in most places are well on their way toward the spawn, water temps are on a steady rise, turkeys are gobbling ahead of the spring season’s opening day. Freshly cut grass and swimming pool time can’t be too far behind.
Chlorine in the hair at bedtime, garden vegetables, new potatoes, okra fried hot and brown, ripe tomatoes, the sharp alum undertone of cucumbers fresh from the vine, cicadas singing in the heat of the day, dragonflies and junebugs and song birds in every tree all play a part of what’s to come.
Somewhere out there, there’s a brand new crop of T-ball players waiting to demonstrate their 4-year-old skills to the cheers of Moms and Dads. For now, it’s still warm jacket weather at the first baseball games, a nip in the air come sundown.
I picture warmer days ahead, sense the pink wisteria blossoms that will take over when the white pear blooms fall, smell the change in the air. Already, charcoal has replaced wood smoke at sunset, burgers and hotdogs grilled in a hurried shiver and eaten inside, families dining on dreams of long sunsets just ahead, neighbors rushing the season just as I will it along.
As the weather warms, the backyard beckons with long-ignored fallen limbs and leaves left unraked from last fall, hardened into fiberboard by rain and snow.
The crepe myrtle needs pruning again, the monkey grass stands to be thrashed into submission, the cane is working its way out of control and countless other unwinnable wars bide their time, but they’ll get their share of attention soon enough.
Today, it’s a special time of year. Soon, every day will feature mosquitoes and stifling heat, cause wistful glances at the calendar, inspire a longing for late September’s breeze, but not just yet. Not just now.
The best days of spring – the best days of the new year – lie just ahead, like holiday gifts yet to be unwrapped.

Kevin Tate is Vice President of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.