Temperatures are warming up, tree buds are swelling and nature is giving us all the signs that spring is close at hand.
A lot of us are ready for it. After the higher-than-average snow and ice from a couple weeks ago, I know I am.
Before grass gets too tall, I'd like to encourage each and every person who can to take a few minutes to beautify an area, by which I mean pick up other people's litter.
On Sunday, my wife and I took a jaunt to the north end of Lake of Egypt, cutting through both the country and some of our small communities in the process. We later went as far as Carbondale before returning.
I know that when the trees are still bare and the grass is brown, the region doesn't look as beautiful as it does on a late spring day or mid-autumn afternoon.
But when you look at the amount of litter scattered across roads, fields, parking lots and every other spot in southern Illinois, it sends the wrong message about us.
I believe the majority of people in our area care greatly about keeping southern Illinois looking beautiful. I frequently visit the Shawnee National Forest, and I know quite a few people spend a lot of time picking up other people's trash simply to do a good turn.
I haven't met him, but Shawn Gossman of Hiking with Shawn does this quite a bit. I know our neighbor, Tim Wise, in Rudement does this everywhere he hikes. I did a story about a young Harrisburg man, Walker Dale, who picks up aluminum cans but also picks up a lot of litter in Harrisburg.
I know a lot of folks who take a trash bag just about everywhere they go in anticipation of making a spot more beautiful.
What I'm suggesting is every person who is able to get outside for a few moments, pick a spot and take the time to pick up litter. Maybe it's along the boulevard in front of your home. Maybe it's the parking lot across the street. Maybe it's along the ditch along a country road. Wear bright clothing and stay safe, and preferably work with a buddy. You'll be amazed how taking 15-30 minutes to remove trash will make an area look better.
If we can do this as a region, and do it while spring growth hasn't started, imagine how beautiful southern Illinois will look during its visual peak.