Commentary: Running into spring
Tomorrow’s March 15th. And while some would say ‘Beware the ides of March!—for Hilary Brueck, this month of unpredictable weather and daylight-savings disorientation is a reminder that changing seasons may also change our moods.
In New York, March is a time for both tearing down skating rinks and sitting outside again. Even as the last remnants of crusty, black snow linger by the edges of fountains and curbs, stir-crazy New Yorkers feel the coming change.
And this odd in-between-the-seasons time reminds me of the two years I lived in Madagascar. I was in the Peace Corps in the coastal Northeastern part of the country.
There, March arrives at the end of a long lean season. From October to February, not much food grows on the island. People struggle to get by.
But in March, all that changes. farmers head to the muddy fields to plant their seeds and dormant rice paddies spring to life .
As the blades grow higher in the coming months, people become more active. Trucks fill the roads, market stalls offer sweet fruits and fresh vegetables, and the clinking of tall brown beer bottles echos from local bar shacks.
I noticed the change most on my daily runs.
Often I’d cross paths with an old skinny man on his way to the fields. He’d run up to greet me.
“Salameee!” Hello! he’d sing.
Even the sight of this tall white girl- RUNning, not in flip-flops like the locals, but in close-toed shoes, wasn’t enough to sway this seasoned farmer from his customary Malagasy greetings.
And he wasn’t alone.
Women with heavy buckets of laundry on their heads stopped.
Young men shepherding horned cows paused.
“Eh, Salama be! Ino vao vao?”
Hey, How are you? What’s new??
Everyone was greeting me like an old friend.
And It wasn’t just when I was running.
Everywhere I went it was: “how are you?” “what’s new?” “nothing’s new?” “Well how’ve ya been?”
As a born and bred Minnesotan, I’m as friendly as the next Midwesterner. Minnesota nice, I get it.
But experiencing this brand of Malagasy chit-chat, in the lens of a new culture, I began to appreciate and embrace the greetings, the hunger for simple human connection – especially when emerging from a period of hibernation.
It’s part of the Malagasy way, the national mantra, ‘mora, mora’: slowly, slowly. Take life in stride. Not exactly stop and smell the flowers, but at least stop and say hi to your neighbor on your way to the rice fields.
Here in New York, on these first warm days of the year, when I can finally feel the sun’s rays, it’s like I’ve learned how to smile all over again. Shoulders relax. There’s a desire to connect.
So maybe there is a little of that ‘mora, mora‘ pace to be found here, even in a city that will never stop running.
SOUND: Fade up Malagasy music
BACK-ANNOUNCE: Hilary Brueck spent two years teaching English in the rainforests of northeast Madagascar, where she developed her love for running, Malagasy proverbs and coconuts.