Monday is Patriots’ Day, also known as Marathon Monday: my favorite day of the year. Boston is a city of champions, and although I love cheering for all our teams, the Boston Marathon is my favorite sporting event because it encompasses the entire range of athletic achievement. On Monday, there will be elite runners from all over the world pushing themselves to compete at the highest level of their sport, and there will also be countless ordinary folks happy simply to drag themselves across the finish line.

Rhododendrons in bloom.

On Marathon Monday, there are no losers. Even if you are the last to cross the finish line, you can brag forevermore that you ran Boston. And even if you don’t finish the race, there is the comfort of having tried your best, along with the camaraderie of being in an exclusive club. The process of earning a Boston Marathon bib is its own kind of accomplishment, and anyone in possession of one earns the right to swagger.

I’ve never run a marathon, and I doubt I ever will: I’m too slow-moving and asthmatic, my stocky legs built for walking, not running. But even sedentary spectators like me “win” on Marathon Monday. Patriots’ Day often falls on one of the first warm-weather days in Boston, and simply being outside after another long winter feels like an eagerly awaited award.

Almost. #signsofspring #daffodils

On Marathon Monday, locals shake off their winter dust and get down to the business of serious spectating. Patriots’ Day celebrates a revolution that gave birth to a union, and Marathon Monday celebrates the ongoing promise of a solemn social contract. You run; we watch. You sweat; we hold out cups of water. You limp; we urge you along with drums and signs, cowbells and kisses.

For one day, anyone in sneakers is a rockstar superhero, and for one day, New Englanders’ famous reserve melts in the spring sunshine as neighbors come outside, unfold like new leaves, and Get Loud, cheering our collective self hoarse. Marathon Monday is my favorite day of the year because in a city of champions, everyone comes together and everyone wins.

Spring leaves

Every spring, I can’t help but snap photos of the year’s first leaves. These pictures are like those of New Year’s babies shown on the front pages of newspapers everywhere. Every year, the first baby of the New Year qualifies as news that’s fit to print, and every year, I show you the baby leaves in my neck of the woods.

Spring leaves

In past years, I’ve waited until May to show you New Hampshire beech leaves unwrapped; this year, it’s the April maples of Massachusetts. Regardless of the state or the species, the upshot is the same: as we speak, the gray, barren woods of winter are starting to sprout into something lush and lovely, the exact opposite of autumn’s annual strip-tease.

Mature leaves seldom strike us as special: trees are common in New England, and each one is covered with countless leaves. But when new leaves first appear, they are simultaneously unusual, odd, and cherished. New leaves often look distinctively different from their mature counterparts, as if baby leaves were alien life forms that only later morph into something known and familiar. New leaves also herald a new season, with local trees’ decision to cover their bare branches happening right when we bundled New Englanders are deciding to cast off our layers, trading turtlenecks for T-shirts, pants for Capris and shorts, and boots for sandals. Perhaps alongside each year’s first green leaves, I should start a tradition of showing you the first naked toe of the year: a whole other reason to celebrate.

Spring leaves

Today is Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, a state-wide remembrance of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which marked the official start of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775: America’s real birthday. I’ve previously blogged my impressions of the green and leafy landscape where the shots heard ’round the world were initially fired, and I’ve also blogged the role that New Hampshire more-than-a-minute men played in the conflict. What I haven’t previously noted, though, is the happy coincidence that the American colonies began their fight for independence right as New England trees were declaring their own green victory over another winter, with unfolding leaves casting off the oppressive bonds of bud-scale and killing frost. It’s the kind of green-flagged victory that even the most pacifist among us can celebrate with abandon.

Spring leaves