Here is Past Deadline from the Feb. 20/14 issue of The Perth Courier.

Signs of spring

Groundhog Day has come and gone. If I remember correctly, I believe the prediction was that spring is going to come – some day.

As much fun as Groundhog Day is, I don’t put a lot of stock in it. (I know. Very clever of me.)

I do believe that nature, however, has its ways of predicting what kind of winter we will have. I remember my parents poring over the Farmers’ Almanac every year. Great discussions about the pending winter were had.

Squirrels were observed. Trees were watched for seed production. Flocks of birds were analysed. Funny, I don’t remember ever hearing that it was going to be a “great” winter but, then again, my parents weren’t farmers so their contexts were different.

Over the years I absorbed and then forgot a few of the clues that predict whether I should buy an extra shovel and more long johns or trade my snowshoes for rain boots. I know I should be watching to see which way woolly bear caterpillars cross the road or how many times a chipmunk circles its hole before entering or whether blue jays scream from maples or pines.

Okay…I’m just making that stuff up – sort of. Actually, with woolly bear caterpillars, legend has it the wider the middle brown section, the milder the winter. I’m going to guess this year’s woolly bears had no middle brown section at all. In other super cool woolly bear news, did you know they hatch in the fall and overwinter as caterpillars – so they can actually freeze solid? There must be a lot of frozen woolly bears out there this year.

I’m not sure if this is the coldest winter I can remember. I recall some seriously frosty jaunts walking from my apartment at Sunnyside and Riverdale to Carleton University across that windswept field at Bronson Avenue. It was during those two winters in Ottawa that I FINALLY embraced hat wearing. Did you know that hats keep your head warm, which makes the rest of you stay warm, too? Remarkable. All those rebellious teenaged years of not wearing hats or socks in winter seem so…cold.

People...hats keep you warm. For reals!

People…hats keep you warm. For reals!

Still, the weather does seem erratic by times, and some folks say the old predictors are not as reliable as they used to be. I wonder, though, if our maple tree was trying to tell us something last spring and fall. For the first time in the 14 years we’ve lived here, its flowers were so dense I had to use a snow brush to wipe them off my car. Same in the fall with the maple keys. It was crazy.

Now I’m looking for signs of spring. In an effort to be helpful and encouraging, I thought I would share them with you:

1-The sun is warmer. Have you noticed – on the days when it’s not snowing – you can actually feel a little heat?

2-The squirrels are chasing each other around rather frantically. This is a family newspaper so I can’t say why.

3-My face is starting to glaze over when people talk about going south or having gone south. I will smile and nod, but in my mind I’ve gone south while you’re talking. (I’m not going south, but so far I haven’t snapped.)

4-The longer the winter, the greater the number of threats of violence against “that groundhog.” At this rate, surely, we must be close to turning the corner.

The surest sign of spring has not yet happened, but with that ever-warming sun is can’t be too far away: the smell of dog poo. Yes, at that point we’ll know for sure. There’s something to look forward to.

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