Is spring early?


By James McGuire

Contributing columnist

March is off and running—already more than a week old.

Have you done any looking about outside lately? Maybe taken a walk at a nearby park, or even a slow amble in the backyard or along your neighborhood’s sidewalks?

If so, you’ll have clearly noted this third month of the year is visibly pushing winter out the back door. Even the seasonally myopic can now see there’s a definite change afoot—the vernal transition is well underway.

And while I’m definitely not a prophet or soothsayer, I think this is all happening early.

Let’s start with the weather.

A few days ago, March delivered a bright and sunny blue-sky day when temperatures soared into the mid-70s! Except for a lack of greenery blanketing the landscape, it could have been one of late May’s finest presentations!

What an unexpected gift!

However, so far, no subsequent day’s high has come within ten degrees of matching that balmy mark. Nor has any day since been nearly so splendid in appearance.

Instead, we’ve seen a pattern of overcast skies and intermittent rain—everything from drizzly showers to lightning-flashed thunderstorms and frog-choking downpours.

Currently, the river is up and the color of creamed coffee. And those same rains have also kept the ground soggy underfoot. Local trails and walking paths have turned into muddy quagmires.

Too, additional sunny interludes have been few and far between, as well as short-lived—brief partings of the vernal curtain. Even so, these little transitory moments—sort of seasonal teasers—were much appreciated.

The good news is that our daytime temps have remained relatively mild—damp overall, but cool rather than cold. Meanwhile, nights have stayed above freezing. That sort of weather for this time of the year is a genuine bonus!

March’s “in like a lion” reputation is not a myth or a catchy line of folkloric doggerel. It’s a genuine and historically accurate weather fact.

Trust me, I’ve been around long enough to have witnessed firsthand an abundant sampling of this notoriously untrustworthy month’s weather shenanigans. And the old proverb is true—as early March hereabouts is typically more wintery than springlike; its few nice days can turn on you in a heartbeat.

Yet I’ve not seen any hints of that happening this time around—no indications fickle March is currently harboring any wintry backtracking intentions.

Frankly, if March wants to serve up a lingering spell of rainy but relatively mild weather, I’m perfectly happy to accept that as a temporary compromise.

Besides, my dooryard crocus and daffodils love it! They’ve both been up and in bloom along the cottage’s limestone walls for over a week.

Typically, my crocus show up first. Their bright, eye-catching flowers—yellow, white, and purple—have poked through and risen above the brown leaves and leftover bits of winter’s detritus. And their much-anticipated appearance never fails to fill my very soul with an inexplicable joy.

The daffodils often need a tad more time—usually an additional week, though this year they only lagged a couple of days behind the crocus. And as with the crocus, I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was to see those lovely yellow and cream blooms.

Both have, for me, long served as critical and unfailingly accurate markers of spring’s looming advent. Sure signs I can monitor and anticipate without ever leaving home.

Two more dooryard indicators of spring’s imminent coming—critters rather than blooms—are the year’s first visits of the groundhog and chipmunk.

My resident woodchuck spends the winter in a blissful snooze, deep in his snug burrow under the driveway hill. From late fall onward, once he’s holed up for the winter, I never see him until spring is truly on the doorstep.

Being a wise ol’ whistle-pig, he rightly doesn’t deign to make a token appearance for the sham of Groundhog’s Day. But about the same time the crocus show their colors, he waddles from his cozy bed and lolls awhile on the lip of his earthen tunnel—sniffing the fresh air and blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight.

He always looks decidedly gaunt—a reduced version of his former portly self. His thick fur coat seems loose and baggy, showing the effects of a protracted diet.

When I saw him the other day, I made a mental note to deposit our vegetable scraps nearby.

The chipmunk will be fine on his own, as he’s now regularly chowing down on the cracked corn I keep out for the ducks and geese who come up the bank several times daily for meals.

Unlike the groundhog, chipmunks are more intermittent hibernators. They’ll awaken during a winter warm spell and go foraging for food. I usually see them when they’re checking under the bird feeders.

I used to count returning turkey vultures as one of my spring harbingers. After all, the folks up in Hinkley acknowledge their returning birds with a rather famous Buzzard Day celebration.

But over the last few years—and certainly throughout this current winter—I’ve realized vultures are unreliable vernal indicators because they often don’t leave to begin with.

I’ve spotted buzzards regularly all winter long. You can’t salute the return of something that hasn’t been gone.

However, spring has, most decidedly, been gone—interminably absent and sorely missed.

But not for long!

March is here and carrying us in the right direction. Moreover, this year it seems willing to forego making us suffer for every advancing step we take to get to that longed-for destination.

Just maybe the “out like a lamb” part of the old proverb has taken early control!

Reach the writer at [email protected]

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