The Thinker

A belated but very welcome spring

Spring arrived late this year. Perhaps this was because winter itself was delayed. Although last autumn was unusually cool, winter did not arrive in earnest until mid January. Instead, in a pattern that is becoming more common, our early winter came replete with periods of spring. There were a few days in January here in the Washington region that found people out in their shorts and basking in the sun. In early January, the warmer weather tricked some trees into flowering.

Global warming is real but that does not mean the basic weather patterns can change overnight. So when winter arrived in earnest in mid January it left us in its icy grip for eight weeks or so. For several weeks, the temperature only rarely rose above freezing. While we had no major snowstorms, we did have something that was arguably worse: sleet storms. We had two in February alone. The first storm was a whopper, leaving three inches of packed sleet on the ground. I was amazed that I could walk on top of it and my shoes would not even leave an impression. I spent four days clearing my walk and driveway. I ended up using a sidewalk edge trimmer supplemented with javelin force stabbings at the sidewalk and pavement. My progress was excruciatingly slow because it would only yield in three-inch wide or less blocks. I cannot recall any storm in the 29 years I have lived in this area that required more effort to clear. Even my bucket of ice breaking chemicals sufficed to melt no more than the top quarter inch of the sleet.

The winter cold and wind had one good effect: it forced us to pay attention to our house’s windows, which in their twenty years of use had become increasingly drafty. The new windows are on order now and will leave us $7500 poorer. We also had our heat pump’s condition assessed. It too was on its last legs. It has now been replaced with a high efficiency model that set us back another $6300.

Winter’s grasp was tenacious. About the time we figured it had left for good, it delivered a surprise early April snowstorm. The storm left little more than a dusting, but it still shocked us Washingtonians. For a day, it was hard to tell if it was snow or tree blossoms that were on our lawn. They blended in seamlessly.

Still, winter at last yielded reluctantly but not without reminding us of its stay. So far, during April average temperatures are about fifteen degrees below normal. Typically, by early April, I am riding my bike to work every day. I did not resume this habit until just last week. There was too much rain, too much in the way of high winds, and too many days where the highs peaked out in the high thirties or low forties to brave the trip.

Winter’s last gasp occurred a week ago when a Nor’easter barreled through. Aside from dropping copious amounts of rain (which we needed) it brought sustained winds of 30-40 miles an hour for a couple days. My house felt like a ship at sea. Its siding groaned and its windows rattled. My wife and I were glad we had replaced the siding a few years earlier. Some of our neighbors were less fortunate and found parts of their siding sheared off by the Nor’easter’s winds. The Nor’easter left, but it took several days for its winds to diminish. Finally on Thursday temperatures rose into the fifties. The clouds parted. The sun reappeared. Spring had finally arrived to stay.

In our area, spring does not tend to last very long. Perhaps this is why when it does arrive it is noteworthy and irrepressible. One of the joys of being a Washingtonian is to live in this area when spring arrives. Spring around here may drive those with allergies insane, but for a few weeks, its arrival overwhelms the senses. It is far more than the blossoms on the cherry tries on the national mall. It is an insanely colorful time of year. It is like watching a gorgeous sunset, except it lasts about a month. We are blessed with flowering trees of all varieties. The grass, which by summer will require regularly watering to retain its color, is now an insanely vibrant green. Flowering bushes in all their glorious Technicolor shades are omnipresent and seem on fire.

Our whole weekend turned out to have just stunningly beautiful weather. The skies were cloudless and a deep nautical blue. The air was crystal clear. The humidity was low. The temperatures were moderate but rose into the low eighties yesterday. It seemed a sin to stay indoors. We found ourselves out on our screen in deck, sitting in a hammock. Our cat basked in the fresh air and purred contentedly on the floor mat. The mild and gentle breeze rustled through our hair. The purity of the air was an elixir. To be outside was to feel peace, joy and a deep sense of connectedness again with our natural world.

Welcome spring. When I think of the mythical Garden of Eden, I have to remind myself that it is not mythical. We have it right here. Unfortunately, at best it only lasts a couple of weeks. This makes it even more important to revel in it now. Soon the heat and humidity will arrive, along with the requisite air pollution. On many summer days we will need to limit our time outside. For now, we must simply marvel at Mother Nature in all her glory. We are wrapped up in the sacred and we are awed at her majesty.


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