Springtime Is Not Come In


Today, I see by looking at my calendar, is the vernal equinox, also known as the first day of spring.

This is one of the days when I wish most desperately that I lived somewhere with A) a sizeable Druid population and B) warmer weather. I would really love to join a bunch of nature worshipers and frolic through the woods right about now, but I don't know many pagans here aside from myself, and it's still too stinkin' cold out.

Spring doesn't exactly suck in southern Arizona--sometimes, if it's been a wet winter, the desert will erupt in California poppies or other lovely wildflowers--but it's not something you long for, something you almost can't help but worship when it arrives, the way it is when you see this gradual but nonetheless dramatic victory of warmth and fertility over the bleak and barren cold, and you think, my god, looks like I'll probably survive a few more months after all.

I admit I never really got spring--in the sense of either understanding or receiving it--until I lived in Iowa. I remember walking along on a snowy day and noticing these strange bits of purple, like a few bright scraps of fabric strewn carelessly across a neighbor's yard. I remember the shock when I realized the scraps were flowers--crocuses, the first flower of spring. There is something deeply magical about crocuses, their petals so fragile and delicate while the plant itself is robust and bold enough to burst through ground that hasn't entirely thawed. I certainly delighted in strolling along sidewalks lined with orange trees on the University of Arizona campus, breathing in the heady, gorgeous scent of orange blossoms on a bright April morning. But that experience, although lovely and memorable, is still not as miraculous as welcoming the triumphal appearance of crocuses, tulips, hyacinths and some of the other early-blooming bulbs after a long, cold, dark, miserable, sucky winter.

Bulbs don't do well in southern Arizona--never gets cold enough--so I didn't really understood their appeal until I lived in the Midwest, but now I far prefer spring flowers to fall's late bloomers, like chrysanthemums and asters. And even among the bulbs, there are some I like better than others. I think daffodils are fine, but I'm not generally crazy about pale yellow anything. I like lilies of the valley and narcissus quite well, but I really prefer the more dramatic tulips. And my favorite bulbs of all are hyacinths--actually, hyacinths are one of the flowers I love best, particularly the pink and purple variety. I find the large clusters of small blossoms very beautiful, and I LOVE the smell.

But although the bulbs have already sent green bits up out of the ground, they haven't bloomed yet. OK, there's not much snow on the ground today and at this precise moment the sun is shining, but it's still really cold out--around freezing during the day, and well below freezing at night--and I'm FREAKIN' SICK OF WINTER.

There's this famous poem you read when you study medieval English literature, that begins "Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing Cuccu," which translates, I am told, to "Springtime has come in, loud sing cuckoo!" (The cuckoo, I am also told, used to be one of the significant signs of spring in ye olde Englelonde, but global warming has changed that a bit.)

I would LOVE to sing cuckoo, I really would! But springtime hasn't really come in yet here, no matter what the goddamn calendar says, and while I'm not above singing cuckoo on my own, it's one of those activities (unlike taking a walk, watching a movie, reading a book, or blogging--you know, the kind of thing I generally like to do with my time) that just isn't as fun when you do it on your own.

So if you're someplace where springtime has come in, and you have someone who'll join you in the activity, do me a favor and sing cuckoo.

And then tell me about it. I would love to hear your springtime celebration story, and I hope I'll soon be singing cuckoo myself.


I grew up in California. I didn't see snow falling from the sky until I was 25 and moved to Wisconsin. Wisconsin has a dreadful climate. Spring lasts about five minutes, and so does fall. Well, maybe two weeks; I don't want to exaggerate.
Spring was something I read about in books until I experienced it in the Northeast and in Europe, where you get the full seasons.

Some of you may have noticed some problems with my blog lately--something's up with the server, and pages don't always load. I've certainly been frustrated dealing with the weirdness.... Anyway, Spike encountered this problem and so was unable to make a comment here, but he emailed me about it. Here's some info on the cuckoo and one of its famous relatives.

Loaded this time -- the page, not me. Not yet, anyway. It's cold and rainy here in the Northeast, which is in fact just a bit northeast of where the Druids might be found. Druids here are likely to be exhorting the forces of nature to right the ship of NUFC, woefully adrift and having just lost 3-1 to Liverpool. Sports seems like just the thing to help us not notice spring happening.

Here the first bulbs to poke up are called "snowdrops": smallish white flowers dripping down off of the typical bulb's stem. Lovely, and they show up as early as January. We've had snow snow since then, and cold- and dark-induced crankiness, but we're far enough north that the days are noticeably longer each day. Frolicking cannot be far off. Daffodils have already made an appearance.

Spring isn't here, either. It's been snowing for two days.

I grew up in San Diego where it's either surfing weather, or it's not surfing weather... or occasionally, the land is under an El Nino pattern in which case most streets are under water, which makes it surfing weather by default.

Here, they say the four seasons are early winter, winter, late winter, and road construction.

There's no sign of spring in Brussels, Belgium, either. We have had more snow this winter than for a very long time - the last about ten days ago (which is very unusual). One place it IS spring, and has been for a few weeks, is the south-west of Ireland. There the crocus is already gone and they are on to daffodils and other bigger spring flowers. So the Gulf Stream that warms Ireland has not stopped yet...

One thing that helps in the appreciation of spring is the arrival of daylight savings, another phenomenon you don't get, Holly. Personally I'm looking forward to next weekend when the clocks go forward and miraculously I have a life outside of work bathed in light (but not glorious sunshine - this is Belgium, afterall). It is so good for the spirit when one leaves work at the end of the day and it's still light outside...

I wouldn't say that I don't "get" Daylight Savings time; I would say that I LOATHE it. I hate the way it disrupts my sleep and my schedule. And however nice it is to suddenly end your day in sunshine in the spring, it's not worth it in terms of how incredibly depressing it is to suddenly end your day in darkness when the jump back happens in the fall. It's unnatural, abrupt and really, really jarring.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on March 20, 2006 9:14 AM.

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