At long last, spring. Cue the fresh scents and sweet chirps.


Long awaited, spring, the season of beginnings, has begun. Though it happens with astronomical regularity, isn’t it interesting that we’re always surprised by the first buds, the first mist-like sheen of yellow in trees that looked lifeless for months, the first songbirds?
The perennially anticipated equinox brings more than pop-up daffodils and lively robins to us this year. Mostly free of masks, marathons are back on, parades have returned, and we dine outside because it’s so nice, not for fear of death. These signs of spring’s rebirth are worthy of being called blessings to count.
Of course, we’re not completely “back.” We mingle, but still carefully, in restaurants and at parties, at the supermarket, at crowded ball games and in schools. We’re still cautious on the days we’re back in the office, and we’re fully masked for medical appointments. Subway, train and plane rides remain as masked as gatherings of thieves.
Those reasonable restrictions notwithstanding, it’s time to get out.
How appropriate that this get-out-of-Covid-jail pass coincides not only with the northern hemisphere’s blooming time, but also with April’s holy celebrations of liberation: Pesach and Easter. Whether we’re commemorating our people’s escape from slavery or our redemption secured by the risen Lord, it’s our time now for freedom and rebirth. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and probably all religions celebrate spring as freedom from fasting and a return to fruitfulness.

Lured by the fresh scents of growing grass and budding crocuses, enticed by the sweet chirps of returning warblers, we’re ready and willing to escape our cooped-up homes and enjoy all that our region offers. You may have your special spring escapes, but here are some favorite places to spend a spring day.
The 409-acre Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, in Oyster Bay, is an ideal venue for individual, couple or family walks among beautiful trees, spring gardens and greenhouses. If you’re by yourself, bring a book; there are plenty of benches on which to sit and read in peace.
Less than five miles from the Planting Fields is Theodore Roosevelt’s family home at Sagamore Hill. The National Historical Site gives life not only to the president’s days at his Summer White House, but also holds treasures from his journeys out West and to Africa. You can feel TR’s energy there. The grounds are inspiring. A few minutes’ drive from downtown Oyster Bay is the president’s gravesite, at Youngs Memorial Cemetery. After a full life, Roosevelt was laid to rest in this peaceful place in 1919, at age 60.
Next to the cemetery is the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center. Except for the chirps of countless songbirds, it’s a quiet place with education programs for adults and children.
On the opposite compass point, one of the most well-known beaches in the world, Jones Beach State Park, offers six and a half miles of broad, clean ocean beaches, nature centers, food concessions and a magnificent boardwalk. I’ve been going to Jones Beach for almost 60 years, and it’s never been better. For bikers, there are trails from Wantagh and other South Shore villages to the park and then east, beside Ocean Parkway.
Freeport’s Nautical Mile has many waterside eateries and drinkeries, party boats, gift shops and fresh-fish markets.
In Suffolk County, enjoy an afternoon at Riverhead’s Long Island Aquarium, a fun experience, especially for kids.
There is a fleet of “open” boats for fishing at Captree State Park, just north of Robert Moses State Park, another fabulous beach and recreation area.
Looking to take the family to a professional baseball game without the crazy prices? Even Mets and Yankee fans will enjoy the L.I. Ducks, who play their first home games starting April 22.
Town of Hempstead residents can enjoy a round of golf at excellent rates at the Lido Beach or Merrick courses. Oyster Bay golfers can enjoy the Hon. Joseph Colby course in Woodbury.
This is an opportune time for Nassau County residents to purchase a Leisure Pass. It costs $36, gets you into many county recreation facilities and entitles you to valuable discounts. You can obtain a pass at most county parks.
There’s lot of springtime in the 930-acre Eisenhower Park. Larger than Manhattan’s Central Park, Eisenhower has ball fields, picnic areas, one of the best golf facilities on Long Island and one of the best swimming facilities in America.
Reserve space for a family, team or organization picnic in Eisenhower Park or any of the many other Nassau County parks. Call your local county park after April 4; find every park’s phone number at https://bit.ly/3N6sEfL.
Whatever your favorite springtime pursuits, now’s the time to shed winter’s shivers and bask in April’s warmth.

John O’Connell is a former executive editor of the Herald Community Newspapers. Comments? OConnell11001@yahoo.com.