Last Saturday (for those of you who may have missed it) Punxsutawney Phil, King of the Groundhogs, didn’t see his shadow when he was removed from his burrow. Some might think that this simply meant that Phil woke under a cloudy sky, but it meant far more than that to The King; he immediately declared that we would see an early spring. So, bolstered by Phil’s decree, I went off in search of spring.
My first stop was at the Ashuelot River, which certainly had a spring like look. I was amazed that two days of above freezing temperatures and two inches of rain had removed almost all traces of ice.
Downstream the river was on full boil and the white water was frothing. It’s a scene that always reminds me of spring. When the river gets like this you can hear the deep and slightly eerie sounds of boulders being rolled along the bottom. Large, heavy objects that roll along the bottom are called the bed load of a river. The amount of solid load that a river carries is measured in metric tons per day, passing any given point.
This scene certainly didn’t speak of an early spring. I decided to leave the river and look for spring elsewhere.
Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) was nice and green and looking spring like, but it has been this way all winter.
Brachythecium moss (Brachythecium rivulare) is often bright green, golden or yellow-green. I found it growing on a rotting log. The color reminded me of spring perennial growth, which is often a light shade of green or even yellow, in some cases.
This white ice also reminded me of spring and when I used to ride my bike through puddles full of it as a boy. I used to love the sound it made when I broke it. It’s amazing how such simple things often come with such powerful memories. I can’t think of anything else that sounds quite like this kind of ice breaking, so it’s impossible for me to come up with comparisons for those of you who have never heard it.
Yes, that’s mud and mud always reminds me of spring. People who don’t live in New England may not have heard about our fifth season, known as mud season. It’s when our dirt roads suddenly liquefy and turn into vehicle swallowing quagmires. Cars and trucks buried up to their axles are a common sight. Mud season happens in spring when the water from the thawed upper layers of soil can’t seep down through the still frozen lower layers. What you end up with is a giant, dirt filled mud puddle that looks like a solid road. Until you try to drive over it.
These red maple (Acer rubrum ) flower buds didn’t fail to bring thoughts of spring either, but it will be a while yet before they break fully.
Magnolias set their furry buds in the summer, so these buds have nothing to do with spring until they open. Some magnolias bloom early enough to be true heralds of spring.
Poplar trees (Populus) are in the willow family and their buds remind me of spring pussy willows. North American poplars are divided into three main groups: the cottonwoods, the aspens, and the balsam poplars. If the buds aren’t sticky then the tree belongs in the aspen group. These weren’t. Aspen buds begin to swell during the first warm period in spring, when minimum temperatures are still below freezing. Air temperature rather than day length determines when their buds will break, so it can vary from year to year.
Daffodil buds are much like aspens in the way that they will simply refuse to grow until it is warm enough, even though they can break ground very early if we have a warm day or two. Seeing them certainly reminded me of spring.
In the end I didn’t find spring and I didn’t see a groundhog either, but I found many signs that told me that nature is stirring, and that spring isn’t too far off. I’d be willing to bet that it’ll be here by the last week of March. By the way, Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring just happens to agree with the National Climatic Data Center and the National Weather Service.
Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson
Thanks for stopping in.