Every spring, as the sun struggles to break through the wet, gray skies of the Pacific Northwest, I fall in love with Olympia again. In fact, everyone in Olympia, upon seeing blue skies, white clouds, and a strange bright light beaming in through their blinds, seem to ooze with happiness, apparently forgetting the miserable drizzle of the last six months. It’s difficult to explain the high one can get from seeing the white crags of Mount Rainier against the pure blue sky.
Delirious smiling Olympians come out of their homes and squint into the sun. The claustrophobic anxiety of winter melts away and light literally seeps into everything I think about. I like to think that we appreciate the coming of spring more than someone in a sunnier place, perhaps somewhere like New Mexico. Although, friends and I have also discussed the pressure that is felt to be outside when the weather starts to change. “I hate when the sun starts coming out because I never know when it will go away and feel guilty if I don’t enjoy it and decide to stay inside and smoke pot all day.” But for the most part, absence makes the heart grow fonder and a shared vitamin D deficiency turns the people of Olympia into sun worshippers.
Another important sign of spring in Olympia is the vibrant Procession of the Species, a community celebration of our “relationships with each other and with the natural world.” The weeks before the day of the Procession are spent in dance and art workshops, bringing together members of the community to create costumes and performances. There are only three rules: no written or spoken words, no pets, and no motorized vehicles. Access to the free community studio, complete with donated materials for costumes, a fully equipped batik workshop, and all of the most welcoming individuals in Olympia, is something I wish I had taken more advantage of in these five years.
On the day of the parade, always the day after Artswalk, the streets of downtown are closed and crowded with kids and sidewalk chalk. Some people come to simply watch and others, dressed as dandelions, giraffes, and alligators, are rushing to parade’s start to find their related species. The parade’s only organization is being divided into four sections: Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
Bystanders too will paint their faces or wear the bright dresses with jungle animals from the back of their closets. Since its start in 1995, the Procession of the Species has grown tremendously and has become a symbol of the rejuvenating energy of spring.