Monday, February 7, 2011

The birds know...and I know too. Spring is coming

Nobody's nesting yet; blue-jays swoop through the open spaces in the back garden calling nasally back and forth and dropping things on my head, I swear. Carolina wrens have upped the volume of their song which is startlingly loud in any case, especially if you find the bird and see how small it is. Cardinals, my son Max counted 7 males in our small yard at one time Saturday, flit about from the big dogwood up into the red oak, then down to the Sky pencil holly where they cling awkwardly to the side. They're still roaming in gangs, boys clubs. That'll end in another six weeks or so.

The calls are a little more enthusiastic. Flights are looser, more adventurous, not just businesslike mechanical movements between shelter and food. There seems a joyous element to their actions. Still, they aren't fooled by two warmish sunny days in a row; they know spring hasn't arrived and won't for a month or three weeks or six. Cold will come, maybe snow, maybe a lot, but today is warm, winter's back is broken, and it's okay to celebrate a little.

My apprehension of the season is more intellectual, less visceral. I know that the sun rises a half an hour earlier than it did on the shortest day of the year and sets almost 3/4 of an hour later. I know the angle of the sun at noon has increased almost 10 degrees going from just below 27 to a bit over 36 now. It's really the angle of the sun that makes the difference in the seasons. I know that the average low temperature has risen from 27 to 29F and the average high from 42 to 45F. And the curve steepens rapidly. By the end of this month, less than three weeks from now, we will be looking at an average high of 50 and a low of 33; those are temperatures you could live with!

And I see buds swelling on shrubs and trees...deepening in color. When the sun just gets high enough to shine horizontally through the big maple by the parking lot in the National Grove of State Trees, the whole tree glows purple rose. I know the snowdrops are already showing color as are some early crocus; other bulbs nose, foliage only, out of the cold earth.

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