Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Light of spring is best of all

We have a couple of door-length shutters on our front porch, and by closing them on hard winter nights, we can make a small, sheltered corner for some of our potted plants to ride out the frost.

Although truly cold weather lifted weeks ago, I noticed the other day that the shutters were still closed, our house continuing to wear its winter face as the yard greened, the air warmed and the sun sat higher in the sky.

Somehow, in the midst of dental appointments, school programs and the hundred other things that fill up a family schedule, we’d forgotten to throw wide the shutters and welcome April into the household.

The porch is open now, and it’s reminded me that even small adjustments can subtly alter the ecology of a home, the mood of the mornings and afternoons and evenings we spend under a roof.

The open porch now brings more light streaming into the kitchen, for example, the utensils in the drying rack shining like coins as I make coffee near the sink each day.

Sunlight in spring is the best light there is — bright enough to burnish away the dullness of February, but without the fierceness that makes summer seem like an interrogation lamp trained on the eyes.

This April, my nightstand reading has included a new edition of “The Gray Notebook,” a journal started by the writer Josep Pla in 1918, when a flu outbreak forced his Barcelona law school to shut down.

Pla hailed from the Catalan region of Spain, and as a young man with little to do after his classes were canceled, he turned to writing as an antidote to boredom. He eventually embraced literature as a profession, but the person we meet in the journal is still trying to figure out what to do with his life.

To read “The Gray Notebook” is to be reminded that not much has changed in human nature in the near-century since Pla took up his pen. As he works through his questions and insecurities, sitting in a café and sorting himself out, Pla could be just about any twentysomething taking his emotional pulse.

But there’s at least one thing that marks Pla as a man of his time. Like so many people who wrote decades ago, he remarks a lot about the weather, the clouds, the sky. Television, texting and the Internet have not yet crowded his attention. He’s still tuned to a natural rather than a virtual world.

“After supper at the end of a sultry day, heavy thunder and lightning, a summer storm complete with celestial fireworks,” he writes in June. “Now, with the downpour, it’s easy to imagine the physical pleasure trees must feel.”

These days, less focused on the workings of the seasons, we look to holidays like Easter as bright bookmarks in the year, reminders that a chapter has turned.

I’ll sip coffee near the kitchen window this morning, and savor the new green unfolding like a picnic blanket across the lawn.