Welcome Sweet Springtime

First day of Spring advice for you unattached women comes from the old notion that on the first day of Spring, you should shout into the rain barrel that stands at the corner of your home.  If you hear an echo, you will marry the first unmarried man who comes around the corner of the house. Who has a rain barrel these days?

Even though we never had much of a winter, today is the first day of Spring. Last year and the year before, Spring began on March 20. Spring will begin on March 20th in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, too.

Did you know that the climatologist have had the jump on the rest of us for the last three weeks?  Their spring began on March first. Climatologists have their own seasons, organized into triads of full months. Instead of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, they have DJF, MAM, JJA, and SON. “MAM” and “SON” are easy enough to say, but if you want to be able to pronounce DJF and JJA, you’re going to have to insert a few schwas.

Yesterday was warm, for the last official winter’s day. Seventy degrees or more of warm. A day warm enough to bring out a cabbage butterfly. And mosquitoes.  A big fat, beat-up carpenter bee cruised the yard in the late afternoon,, trying to get some nourishment, trying to push its head into the blossom cups of old and wilting snowdrops.  Surely some of you saw mourning cloak butterflies?

Early, early, early, is this spring. An “alert” message to all of you in the Northeast US who like to feed hummingbirds. As of yesterday, the rubythroats have reached as far north as central Connecticut. If you put feeders out for them, now is the time. If we get chilly weather, their need for fuel will be intense. See http://www.hummingbirds.net/index.html for more information.

The early hummingbirds are news for phenologists, whose specialty is recording the first dates for seasonal plant and animal milestones. Blooming and leafing, migratory arrivals and departures, are the stuff of the phenologist’s preoccupations.

My introduction to phenology, although she never used the term, came from Priscilla Pettingill Fischer, who taught us little kids at the West Tisbury School. Every year, the right hand section of the blackboard at the front of the room was dedicated to floral phenological firsts. If you brought in the first bloom of something, its name and your name, with the date, would be written out in perfect Palmer script.

This was how we learned our flowers, and how to notice the world around us.

Almost sixty years later, the love of noticing the changes of each season remains with me.

Thank you, Mrs. Fischer.

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