Fruit Blossoms and Dopamine

selective focus photography of pink petaled flowers
Photo by Dương Nhân on

I just wrote last week about how #winterworn I was and here we are a week later and it seems spring has sprung, or it’s at least trying its hardest, as an old unattributed poem goes. I’m not sure the weather is befitting what we might think spring weather should be in all places as of yet. We surely aren’t quite up to par here in the mountains with what I’d say are acceptable spring temperatures just yet. In fact, we’ve been having to frost sheet our fruit trees for days now and are expecting hard freeze over the weekend again. The poor trees have already sprouted leaves and we have blossom sightings, and, although they’re a year shy of fruiting, we are in danger of them being stunted by frost. The daffodils already met their demise. They’d flowered during one of the warm spells last month and as soon as the temperatures plummeted again, the beautiful yellow blooms withered and turned brown. Such is the way of nature and its fickle disposition. The promise of renewal thwarted and crushed beneath its icy fist, only to resurface on a frigid March breath.

While the flora is struggling, however, the fauna is at the height of equinoxal fruition. Just this week I witnessed the first emergence of the daddy groundhogs over on Whistle Pig Hill (that’s MarshFox’s and my name for it anyway—not sure what the town of Sylva has dubbed it, but to us it’s become known as Whistle Pig Hill). Yes, indeed, the daddies are out and about eating the greening grass with fervor. I imagine every time we drive around the winding road along the hill what exactly those poor fellows are thinking as they munch away, famished after being cooped up all winter with their brooding ladies.

“Would it be wrong of me to run…run so far away?”

“Man, she is grouchy!”

“Lawd, but it’s good to be outta there for a couple of hours!”

“Haven’t had any for weeks and now she sends me out to grab dinner?!”

“Is she ever going to have that kid?”

I love to drive over to Whistle Pig Hill in the late spring and watch all the babies emerging from their dens for their first glimpse of the world and their first feel of the sun’s rays. It is indeed a sight to behold!

We as humans tend to forget that we are indeed part of the fauna and as such just as prone to the effects of hibernation followed by the emergence of all that’s new as the less sophisticated of our brethren. For us, spring is the time we all start feeling a little friskier, and perhaps a bit moodier, sullen in our acceptance of our yearly dose of our body’s natural “love drug.”

I recently read an old article from 2010 written by Sanden Totten which suggests that our spring affliction with love sickness can be attributed to an increase in dopamine. The increase, the article suggests and cites, is triggered by novel experiences. Spring is one such novel experience, or series of such experiences, which turns our brain into a dopamine factory. For romance authors, such as myself, I have come to believe that we are double-whammied in this area. We’re already romantics and enamored of the novelty of everything and anything having to do with romance then here comes spring with its fresh breezes, green buds, bunnies chasing each other wildly, and daddy groundhogs contemplating making a run for it before junior makes an appearance and, well quite honestly, we don’t stand a chance. I myself have found that I have an increase in word production twice a year, early fall and all spring. I have discovered that during these times, it behooves me to take complete advantage of all that dopamine pumping through my system and let my fingers fly, getting as many words down as I possibly can before the novelty of it all wears thin. (I wonder if that’s why CampNaNo comes a callin’ in April? Or is that pure coincidence? Note to self: further investigate this hypothesis!)

It was while contemplating all this and more concerning spring, I found myself trying to bridge a connection between all the terms and descriptions of spring and my chosen genre, romance. While we all know spring is associated with romance in so many ways, has anyone ever taken a few moments and looked at the many words and phrases describing spring and pondered just how intricately they are the epitome of love and romance?

Awaken, blissful, bloom, blossom, bask, come alive, tender, warm…

Love is awakening. It blooms and grows. We bask in it. It’s tender. It’s warm. Just as spring promises a renewal, a rejuvenation, the promise of love offers the hope of something more, something new and exciting and blissful. Just as the seasons circle around, driving the order of the universe, ebbing away and resurging into something different throughout the year, in the romance genre, love makes that world go ‘round.

So often, the romance genre is looked upon as being the ugly outcast of the literary world. But I suggest to you today that in its purest form, it offers something of value. It offers a chance to recapture those dopamine driven feelings anytime of year, anytime one picks up a romance novel and allows themselves to immerse their being into the world of hope and renewal, of tenderness and warmth, of bliss. It offers the promise of something more, of something new.

I bid y’all a happy first day of spring and wish for you a surge of dopamine…

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