Slice of Life: The Promise of Spring

Written by: Kim Fundingsland

For me it is the most anticipated season of the year. I’d guess it is for a lot of other people too, especially when winter seems to hang around a bit too long.

Kim Fundingsland photo

Spring is never all sunny days and warm temperatures, but it is a season of promise, foremost being that winter, and snow, and windchills, and golf courses and campgrounds covered in white drifts, and frozen lakes won’t last forever. Oh, winter is often reluctant to release its grip, but spring always comes through as promised, albeit on a timetable all its own.
I guess those who follow such dates get a bit frustrated too, or at least have realized the futility of circling spring on the calendar while at the same time issuing Winter Storm Warnings.

You see, this year our spring officially begins March 20. Yes. That’s the day winter is over and the season of changing furnace filters, warming up vehicles, shoveling snow, and wearing heavy clothes comes to an end. Okay, it doesn’t quite work that way, but at least that’s the promise of spring.

March 20 is actually the beginning of astronomical spring, the arrival of the Vernal Equinox. Spring is a better term for when the sun is directly overhead. Those professional weather guys and gals, like those at the National Weather Service, have what they call meteorological spring. That starts March 1. Confusing, huh?

There are some issues with keeping records of spring weather because astronomical spring varies in length each year. So, long ago the NWS adopted meteorological spring in their quest to provide meaningful data. Meteorological spring comprises the months of March, April, and June – always the same length of time.

While the meteorological system is better for accurately comparing weather data from one year to the next, it’s also confirmation that any timetable for the arrival of spring, warm temperatures and tulips and such, is pure folly. Spring has a timetable all its own.

One of my favorite indicators of spring, here’s that promise again, is when the first geese are heard or seen where they’ve been absent since last fall faded into winter. In the Minot area a few Canada geese arrived weeks ago, only to be greeted by a dump of a foot or so of snow and blizzard conditions.

Soon though, the skies will be filled with migrating birds that rely on instinct to push north, not a calendar, astronomical or meteorological. Sure, sometimes they get caught in a spring storm, but their overall record for getting the change of seasons right is remarkable.
First come Canada geese, then snow and white-fronted geese, ducks and shorebirds. Then it is spring. Muddy roads, melting snow, lakes becoming ice free, crocuses, then lilies, appearing in the countryside.

With one hand on the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it’s safe to say the spring we all wish to see certainly can’t be counted on to arrive March 1 any more than it can on March 20, or any other astronomical date. It’s a slice of life that just shows up unannounced, like an old friend knocking at your door.

Aaaah! All the more welcome. Break out the bicycles, jog through a city park, and watch the world around you turn green. It is Spring’s promise fulfilled. Of course, on its own timetable, but that is entirely excused when winter coats give way to short sleeves, and we enjoy a dramatic change of season.

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