February 10, 2013
Hope springs eternal as long as there’s another spring coming.
If no wise person ever wrote that, they should have. I’ll be glad to take the credit for that one. That’s credit for the part about spring, not the part about being a wise person.
In the famous novel for children, “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe,” which has been portrayed on the screen many times, the latest version by Disney, one of the consequences of the land of the fictional Narnia being in the grip of an evil witch was that it was always winter. And with no Christmas.
Narnia had no spring coming until the young heroes of the story arrived to save the day and bring an end to unbroken winter.
In real life, people do not remain in a land that has no spring. Even the Inuit and the Laplanders and the others in the far North get a break from wintertime in July.
We have it good here. Spring starts early. The calendar tells us spring will start March 20, but we all know it starts earlier.
But just when will springtime arrive? For years now I’ve been looking for the surefire sign of the arrival of springtime, the time when the low-hanging sun begins to warm the bones, the time when the heavy coats are cast off for good.
And I’ve been lousy at it.
I used to look for the robins’ return from the south as the surefire sign.
One gray winter’s day I looked out the kitchen window here in the hometown, and there I spied a huge flock of robins covering a big chunk of my backyard and part of a neighbor’s. I thought a hundred of them was a good estimate.
Oh goody, I thought, this has got to mean spring’s coming early. I’d never seen such a flock of the birds with the familiar rust-colored breasts.
So I waited for spring. And I waited. And I waited. Gray day after gray day after gray day passed. Springtime seemed to come late that year. I’ve never trusted robins since.
Some start anticipating spring by Groundhog Day, especially if the day is gloomy. If a few mild days in February follows in short order, as they did last week, the expectation bubbles within. A few hardy souls will even go out and plant some early garden stuff.
I caught spring fever in 2007, and on a mild day I planted nine rows of Early Alaskan peas on the first Saturday of March, on the 3rd. Spring had arrived, I proclaimed to myself as I finished.
I’d planted peas even earlier in prior years. So I thought nothing about going out a bit early in ‘07, confident the bad weather had broken.
In two weeks I noted my first pea sprouts, and by April 7 I had plants as high as nine inches and growing runners. My pride swelled. I’m not very good in the garden, so when I do get something right I remember it.
The traditional end of the threat of frost was only about a week away, I gloated to myself.
Then winter struck with cruelty. It was clear during the day of April 14 that year but the night air turned bitter cold. The low reached down into the lower 20s.
OK, these are Alaskan peas, I thought. They should still be all right.
And the young plants endured the first night fine, it seemed the next day. But the thermometer plunged again the next night. And the next night. I began to worry. Nothing like this had happened to me before. It’s not supposed to frost after April 15.
But we had four nights of mid-20s or lower, and every one of those beautiful early pea plants froze and died. I got two pods from one sole, surviving sprout. I have no idea how that one plant survived.
That year I had no mess of garden peas, my favorite. I stood at the garden, looked at the two pods in my hand that I plucked from my one surviving plant and just wolfed down the peas raw.
Some travel to the beach to greet spring early and hunt for some warm solar rays and ocean breezes.
Myrtle Beach has a promotion in mid-March, Canadian Days, and one time I was down there and marveled at the Canadians out frolicking in the surf while I’m walking on the beach chilly in a warm-up suit. The Canadians thought spring had arrived; I thought no way.
“It’s feels warm to them,” a storeowner explained.
It looks like we have a normal late-winter and early-spring in store as I check the extended forecast of the National Weather Service. So no Big Snow in March or garden stuff freezing in April, as I see it. Let’s see if that proves true.
So following that two-day warm spell last week, here I go. I’m going to call an early spring. Again. It feels right in my bones. It feels like springtime. I got out the short-sleeve shirts and shorts.
Let’s see how I do this time.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.