Friday, February 6, 2009

The thaw begins

Ah, Spring. I know, the calendar says we still have six weeks or so to go, but on February 5th we passed the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and I can feel the change. The sun is higher and warmer, the days noticeably longer. Here in southeast Michigan we've gained about an hour and a half of daylight, 50 minutes of it in the evening. Even when the air temperature doesn't get above freezing the sun is warm enough to melt the snow. Bare patches get bigger every day. I start to hear the drip drip drip of spring.

I remember when I was a kid how excited I would get when it rained for the first time each year. It was a sure sign that winter was on its last legs. Winters have changed, warmed since then, and we had been getting rain at any time of the winter--a few years back we had a thunderstorm on New Year's Eve. But this winter has been more like what I remember as a kid, cold and snowy--we still have around one foot of snow on the ground. What's wonderful about that is you really feel the change of seasons, winter turning into spring seems to mean more, is more powerful, carries more excitement. It's hard to get excited about spring when there's been no snow on the ground all winter.

I know plenty of people who rejoice in a warm winter, but for me it's the change of seasons that makes living here so wonderful. I love the transition, love how each time I leave the house it's just a little bit different outside. One day I notice the snow's not so deep. Later I'll hear my first robin of the year. Next thing I know the house wren is waking me up at five in the morning, singing outside my open window. The peepers of spring become the cicadas of summer become the crickets of fall. I'll wake up one morning and there's been a frost, and I know it won't be long before the first flakes fly. The juncos return and it's time to dig out the snow shovels. And when the snow does fall again I'll strap on my snowshoes and dare winter to try to keep me inside, and listen carefully for those first drips of spring.

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