At some point, perhaps today, we need to define spring once and for all. If we want to treat it like a mere transition between the true seasons of winter and summer – a buffer or shoulder season – then we should revoke its status as one of the four seasons. But if we embrace it as its own season, we should regard it as more than the blossom before the warmth. We must then consider it on its own merits, unlike the apocalyptic weather watchers who get bored without the specter of summer’s deadly heat or winter’s deadly snowstorms. “Muddy with a chance of flowers” will never be a riveting breaking news update.

I’m in favor of defining spring as the beginning. To me, it’s the truest beginning on the calendar. It may not have a clean, clear-cut symbol like New Year’s 1/1. Nor does it have the boozy celebrations and unfulfilled resolutions of New Year’s. If anything, spring is a time of fulfilled resolutions, though the resolutions are more its own than ours. Every year, we can count on spring to bring life, to green the lawns and enliven the mountains with bird chatter. The days get longer and warmer. The season of rebirth arrives. If only spring could count on us like we count on it.

Spring to me is like the first day of summer break during school, which seems counterintuitive until you compare the emotions. Like that first day of freedom from homework, spring is full of anticipation and hope – the world seems bigger than it is just like those three months of leisure seemed longer than they were. It wasn’t until mid-break that the leisure started feeling like routine, and the anticipation gave way to habit. Likewise, once spring disappears and summer fully sets in, we learn to take the sunny days for granted. We still enjoy them, of course, but we’ve lost the wide-eyed wonder that spring’s first blossoms inspired. We don’t regain that feeling until spring starts the cycle over again the following year.

With that said, I understand spring’s faults. For all its reliability in delivering greener pastures, it does so on its own schedule, which isn’t always so reliable. It can behave like an extended winter. Montana is known for having four seasons, but spring and fall sometimes get the short end of the stick. And when winter does relinquish its grip, whenever that is, the thaw can leave behind some terrible surprises, the least of which is mud. Stepping in six inches of dog poop during the Spring of ’14 will never be as sentimental as getting your first real six-string during the Summer of ’69. But when the soil’s moisture begins quenching seedlings, and the poop turns to fertilizer, we realize that dirty shoes were a small price to pay for a front-row ticket to life’s greatest renewal act.

I’ve spent summers, autumns and winters far from home, in Argentina and Peru and Central America, but I’ve never spent a spring away from Montana. This is more by happenstance than grand design, but the truth is that I never feel more connected to my native soil than during spring. Every year, when the departed snow exposes the landscape, I see everything with new eyes. The tree I hadn’t noticed on daily walks with my dogs now demands my attention with its emerging leaves. The dogs sense the changes, too, enjoying scents that had previously been trapped under snow. Together, we all bear witness to the land coming alive. It’s hard not to revel in this, let alone simply notice it. I consider it a privilege of living.

With the world sprouting back into form, we get a shot at redemption, too. Spring brings not only the beginning of life outside but also the promise of new beginnings within, however we wish to define those new beginnings. Maybe we can resurrect that ill-fated and short-lived New Year’s exercise resolution. We thought it was over, that we missed our chance and had to wait until next January, but spring has given us a second chance. We should take advantage of it. Or maybe we can use spring to set revised financial goals with the knowledge we’ve gleaned from tax season. Or perhaps we can start expressing our love everyday to loved ones instead of simply telling ourselves we should. This can be the beginning we missed in January. Let’s be motivated by spring, which always fulfills its annual promises. Let’s fulfill our own promises.

So here we are, at the beginning, free to explore the glorious possibilities of personal new beginnings, as plants and animals embrace their own. Spring has given us those possibilities. It gives us those possibilities every year, without fail. Spring has given us an opportunity to begin calling our family more regularly, like we’ve been meaning to do for so long. It has given us a reminder that life is delicate but endlessly beautiful, driven by cycles both within and outside our control. It has given us an excuse to wander outside just to look around and soak in the newly green world, to contemplate where our own cycles intersect with the grand cycle of renewal all around us. It has given us a shot at redemption. Will we take advantage of it?