February and its newborn younger sister, March, may start or end in trying times of ice and snowstorms or they may choose to swing aboard laden with a load of sweet and balmy days. Old Man Winter hasn’t thrown in the towel yet, but the leaf-growing sunlight is increasing at a rate of about 15 minutes a week. Either way, signs of change are showing.
Our creeks and waterways are still cold, hovering at about 48 degrees last week, and the fish are still wearing their winter overcoats. Buds are waiting. The swamp maple blossoms and cypress tassels still tightly wrapped in their protective calyx’s are awaiting some magic signal telling them it’s time to celebrate their grand opening.
Each region has its signs, usually more felt than seen. Red-osier dogwood stems are showing more life, willows catkins are still winter tight. However, here and there, a pioneer dandelion is unfolding, pushing its cold-defying golden globe towards a warming sun.
In the Midwest, the serious signs of spring fever don’t become epidemic until the purple flower with fuzzy leaves and heart of gold known as the spring crocus, or more formally, as the pasque flower, begins to emerge from beneath a wintery blanket of snow, ice and mud. It arises in time to hear the sweet songs of returning meadowlarks, the chattering of red-winged blackbirds and the quacking of the blue-winged teal.
We still have a couple of weeks to go before the daffy dills and their flowery friends get serious about blooming. According to those who keep records, spring temperature averages tend to move northward at roughly 16 miles each day, or approximately 100 miles a week, plus another week for every 800 feet in elevation. The shortening shadow tells us that we will soon be seeing some welcome changes arriving with the chariot of the seasons.