Today is the second day following the vernal equinox. At our latitude we have gone past the point where there is an equal number of hours of daylight and night time. We will continue to gain daylight until the summer solstice when the light hours will slowly begin to dwindle until we have the maximum number of night time hours at winter solstice. This seasonal clock repeats itself every year and will have different impacts depending on where you live. The further north or south of the equator the more dramatic the changes. Existence on a nearly spherical planet knows no equality. Like life in general there is no real sense of fair play relative to geography.
In our part of the world spring signifies rebirth. It is supposed to be the season of tree buds breaking, green plants emerging from the soil, birds building nests, and the birth of many animals. And all these items will occur, depending on the exact nature of the weather, of course. The end of our winter, at least the last month and a half, had been generally cold and snowy. The day before spring, that is two days ago, we had another 15 inches of snow. There is now close to two and a half feet on the ground. A healthy, but not intimidating, depth for this time of year. The extended forecast calls for more cold and potentially snow over the upcoming 2 weeks. That’s not a bad thing. It is simply New England.
I think there are many regions of the country that use the expression “If you don’t like the weather around here stay for a day.” New England is the preeminant leader of fickle weather. Caught on the edge of several main high air currents, the nearby Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, and terrain that varies from coastal plain to mountains, our weather can change at a moment’s notice. I have no complaints about this. I like weather surprises. And I like all weather; the abundant variety is the foundation of our particular part of the world and the plant and animal life that lives here. And to be real honest, I am very happy to get a temporary reprieve from the effects of global warning/climate change. This, perhaps, temporary return to “ole New England weather” is a welcome happening. There may not be too many more “regular” winters around these parts.
The deep snows that insulate the ground will hold frost in the earth for a few extra weeks. The emergent growth of vernal plants will be slightly delayed. But come they must and come they will. Like a freight train that cannot be stopped sprng will emerge from the long dark tunnel of winter, maybe a little behind schedule, and perhaps quite suddenly.
Our first spring flower in these parts is the coltsfoot. This plant, brought from Europe a couple hundred years ago, is found along the edge of streams or along moist gravely roadsides. It likes wet seeps and the yellow flower, stongly resembling a dandelion, also produces a parachute seed that is swept away by the wind. I love wind borne seed. This loving act of seed dispersal is poetic. By sheer chance a wind blown seed landing in a position favorable to future germination will spread the DNA of the parent plant to parts unknown. In my mind this fits into the “free spirit” category. A life style very near and dear to my way of thinking.
The first green emergent plant in our area is false hellebore. This plant grows rapidly to several feet in height. The leaves of this plant are distinct. They are large and have heavy parallel veins. An indiudual leaf curls downward like a wave crashing to shore. The plant has a remarkably short appearance. From emergence to complete decay may all take place in 7 or 8 weeks when a long dormancy period begins again.
My favorite avian arrival of the spring is the phoebe. These bright little birds nest on the side of our house. They will reuse last years nest or build a new one out of sticks, moss, and mud. They somehow perch the nest on the one inch ledge of a piece of trim that frames a second story window. The nest is tucked up under an eve where it never gets direct sunlight. It is such a pleasure watching the two parent phoebes after the chicks have hatched. They land on a nearby branch, their tail bobs up and down, watch for prey, and grab an insect right out of the air before returning to feed it to their yound. Dad does a lot of the hunting early on while Mom stays with the chicks, but as the days get warmer and the chicks get larger both parents hunt nonstop in search of food for their growing family. Phoebes have some simple, beautiful songs to sing as well. Any day with Phoebes around is a good day in my estimation.
This constant rotation of the seasons. One more lap of the Earth around the sun. One more year in the life of this observer. One more chance to appreciate and behold the beauty of all that we have and share.
One more glimpse of all that ever was or ever will be.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in March of 2013.