testing testing

Is it safe to come out yet?

Talk about conflicting desires.  On the one hand I cannot wait for spring to come, and so I’m subconsciously urging it to hurry and come on.

But on the other hand, I know it would be better if the seasons unfolded at their proper pace, if buds were not fooled into popping open by sudden warm spells in early February, if the bulbs take their sweet time stretching their long, green bodies out of the earth, if the earth itself had time to absorb all the spring rains and be invigorated by the rushing of the wild spring winds.

I don’t want to wish for something counter to the way Nature has laid her plans.

Honestly, when the seasons unfold preternaturally quickly, the specter of Global Climate Change is always lurking in the back of my mind.  But climate change doesn’t necessarily translate to a warmer season or a shorter winter, as the assumption often is  (the fault of its nickname, “global warming,” I suspect).

Here in the Southeastern United States, I’ve had a valuable resource in my grandfather and his old-time farmer friends, who can tell me with absolute certainty that they used to plant the “spring” or first corn crop in mid-February, just as an example.  An entire crop rotation is no longer possible because there’s almost always a late freeze now, often coming as late as April.

Climate change has meant a more erratic season in general, although Granddaddy insists it still has a cyclical predictability to it.  And his predictions are usually right, so I listen up.  For 2010, his prediction is a wet and chilly spring, a rapid transition to summer temps followed by a definite period of what we call “Blackberry Winter” in late May, and then a hot and pretty dry summer, although not with the kind of drought we had a couple of years ago.

All of this is based on what he’s seeing in Northwest Georgia, mostly from the kitchen window or the porch.  I despair of ever attaining his knack of observing the rhythms of the land.

Today is Groundhog Day, a purely North American tradition (layered atop a European one, Candlemas, which itself is a Christian holiday laid on top of an ancient pagan observance).  February 2nd we wait anxiously to see what the newly awakened groundhog (or woodchuck, as they’re known around here) thinks after he comes out of his burrow.  Supposedly he’s testing the air for spring, and many believe he has resources of intuition that we humans do not.

If it’s a bright and sunny day and this little animal sees his shadow, well, then we’re in for six more weeks of winter.  Six more weeks.  I literally don’t think I can take six more weeks of this.

I’m not kidding.

Personally I’ve been hoping for overcast skies, so dark that the little fellow sees no hint of his shadow.  By tradition, this means spring is “right around the corner.”

This morning, it’s been raining here in Seneca.  I don’t know if there’s a local woodchuck lined up yet.  I’m planning on checking the town paper later to find out.

Otherwise, my groundhog climatologist of choice will be “Beau,” a.k.a. General Beauregard Lee — yes, we all need collective therapy down here — a resident of suburban Atlanta who has been commended twice by The National Weather Service for his forecasting accuracy.  The general lives in a traditional Southern mansion with white columns and his own mailbox.  In case you have questions for him.

I’m still not kidding.

Beau isn’t brought out on a schedule like the famous Punxutawney Phil, but comes out whenever he feels ready on the 2nd of February, and he’s already come out today, testing the moist, chilly air, glancing around for his plump shadow.

His verdict? 

Spring is right around the corner.

Now I don’t believe in a silly human convention for testing the weather with an animal emerging from hibernation.  (Or, in the case of poor little Phil, sometimes being dragged from its depths in the middle of a New England winter.)

But when I heard General Lee’s prediction, my mind’s eye immediately filled with images of blue skies stippled with tender white cloud; a hillside wreathed in golden daffodils; the forest’s edge frothed with dogwood and redbud; the streets lined with Bradford pears, startling white against the blue dome; the azaleas, like young girls in their Easter dresses, dressed up in pink and salmon and cream; and everywhere that green that is almost golden, shining with new life, translucent to the light.

No matter how many times I tell myself to be sensible, to not wish for the earth to rush her seasonal pace, the truth is that my heart is always singing the same song of longing at this time of year.  Sometimes its melody is easier to follow, and sometimes it fades to a whisper in the background of my days.  Its lyric is simple:

Come, Spring… and welcome!

19 Responses to “testing testing”

  1. Dear Merideth, What a beautifully written, evocative piece. I have so enjoyed this and share exactly the sentiments that you express here.

    You are also very right about the misleading term of ‘global warming’. Evidence to date would suggest rather than simply the planet becoming hotter, that we should anticipate increasingly erratic weather conditions. Something which should concern us all.

    The predictions given by wise people such as your grandfather are always of interest and worth listening to.

    • Edith, that is so kind of you. 🙂 You’re right about the changing conditions being of concern to us all. The earth is our very life, and I think more and more of us wake up to that fact every day.

  2. I’m with you. Not in a rush for spring, but as our plum trees have already decided to bloom, I’m hoping the coldest part of winter is behind us. Though I doubt it. Last year we still dipped below freezing some nights in early May! Crossing my fingers that Beau’s intuition is right!

  3. Can we get General Lee to talk to Wiarton Willie (our groundhog prophet)? Because Willie is predicting six more weeks of winter (which sort of goes along with the calendar) and I had to laugh because it was only sunny for a few hours this morning and couldn’t Willie have waited until the clouds rolled in?

    I hope Spring arrives in the proper time and our gardens unfold and reveal in the proper order. I’m just going to keep a hope in my heart for a proper Spring that awakens the earth gently and sweetly and keep my eye out for the signs that Old Man Winter is weary and ready to retire.

    • You make me laugh, Talon. If I lived in Canada, I’d surely make some extra effort to hold Wiarton Willie indoors until the cloudy front arrived. 😉 I have a feeling we’ll all be watching the signs of spring avidly, wherever we are.

  4. Although we have snow on the ground, we have welcome sunny skies today, a reason to celebrate.

  5. Oh I cried when I read that Phil saw his shadow this morning. I woke up to snow falling too. Oh well. I love how your grandfatheris so in tune with the land. I wish I could be so connected. I can’t wait for spring either!

    • Oh, Alisha. 😦 I feel your pain. It will all soon be a memory, hon.

      I suspect that many of us long to feel that sense of connection again. It is in our genes, surely, and our lives in the cities and suburbs are so disconnected. Sometimes it feels as if we’re adrift in a sea of nameless faces. What a pleasure to see and truly be seen by our places, to have roots! (I know you long to put down roots as much as I do, and I wish it fervently now for us both. :))

  6. I loved your description of spring! I can see it. Every year I hold my breath when all the plants start budding out on February. So many times they get nipped by frost. That’s the main reason I don’t plant early magnolias, though they are very beautiful.

    • Deborah, I don’t think I’d ever plant early magnolias either… and yet in years where the weather cooperates, a mature tulip tree is so uplifting to the soul. Maybe precisely because it so rarely makes it through the late frosts now… sigh.

  7. It will be so lovely when spring is in the air. Thank you for the images you present today which give us a glimpse.

  8. I want Spring to hurry up too but you’re so right ~ best to have it come on its own timetable. I sure like Beaus prediction better than Phils tho! I hope that’s right for Colorado too. I think the climate has definitely changed ~ things are so different here than they were even ten years ago. Colorado used to be famous for snow that fell then quickly melted (with our supposed 300 plus days of sunshine). We’ve had snow on the ground for months the last two out of three winters. Interesting, huh? Your grandfather sounds like a very attuned man.

    • 300 plus days of sunshine! That’s impressive. Having grown up in a climate where sun and rain like to mingle frequently, I think I’d miss the rain. (Yes, weird. ;))

      As for the snow staying on the ground, that sounds like a dramatic and unpleasant change in your bioregion’s climate in a short time. Hoping it stabilizes a bit soon…

  9. I love this whole “groundhog” thing. Over here we have a similar rodent called Michael Fish. He appears on the television every evening, and tells us the weather. Whatever he says will happen will never happen. If he says it will be sunny, it might rain, it might snow and hell might freeze over. It certainly won’t be sunny.

  10. Unfortunately, the term ‘ global warming’ has certainly drawn a lot of scepticism whereas the critics fail to realise that in some areas of the world, such as Australia, we have definitely felt the heat intensify over the years. Our winter in Queensland is barely a winter at all yet, in my teens, I remember clearly dreading the cold of winter because, in a sub-tropical climate, our homes weren’t central heated. Our winters back then were definitely colder and longer where we really needed to rug up to stay warm…..so unlike now. Now, I dread our summers and it’s not due to my age as my kids complain about the heat too. Climate change is definitely a more suited title as we see quite dramatic climate change in many countries around the world. I agree, Meredith, it certainly is a concern.

    I loved reading your post! You have such a love of the written language that shows through in your writings. In your grandfather’s time, they relied on their connection to the earth and her elements and they took note on the subtle changes in nature. Now, we rely on a weather report which, most times, is wrong.

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