Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Is it spring yet?

Anyone but me glad it’s March? If the Groundhog is to be believed, in about two weeks we can expect new leaves, rhubarb peeking through the ground and maybe even a robin.

Of course I know that’s a pipe dream, but it’s fun to anticipate an early spring. I was an adult before I realized the Groundhog’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter if he saw his shadow was supposed to be the negative. I have always lived in a place that only 6 weeks of winter after February 2 is looking on the bright side.

That folk tale has a correlative to the one from Croatia that if a bear comes out of hibernation and the sun is shining he’ll be scared by his shadow and run back into his cave to sleep for another 40 days. A local rumor a couple of weeks ago had bear tracks at a bird feeder on Beaver Loop. An early riser that probably thought better of it and went back to bed for 40 days. Apparently, February 2, or Candlemas in some traditions, marks halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and holds mythic significance if the sun is shining on that day. Or not. The only instance I can think of where the sunshine bodes bad.

But I know how the Groundhog and the Bear feel. It’s March and I feel like I’ve all at once come awake and poked my head up to view my surroundings. However, if I saw sunshine, I’d probably dance a jig (well, maybe a ‘senior shuffle’). I’m ready to put away the sweatshirts and wooly socks and bring back the sneakers and windbreaker. All at once, it’s light again, so it must be spring!

The best harbinger of spring I know is seed catalogs. They begin arriving about February 2, also, and brighten the day even if it’s cloudy and stormy. Reminds me a little of when the Christmas catalogs came in the mail when I was a kid. I could spend hours just looking and dreaming. The seed catalogs serve that function these days as the new version of the “Wish Book” when we are longing for spring and anticipating blooming daffodils.

In the ‘old days,’ we knew spring was in the air when we walked into the post office and heard the ‘peep, peep’ of baby chicks. They usually arrived a little later, more toward mid-March, but were a sure-fire sign that the snowy days were in the past. They came through the mail in a big flat box with holes in it, peeping away waiting for their new home. The postmaster would call, and Mom would run to town to pick up the box. For whatever reason the mailman didn’t deliver them. They’d spend the first day or two on the back porch, acclimating to the weather, then go into their brooder. They were cute for about a week, then began to get their feathers and develop into chickens. It took about six weeks for them to be out of the brooder and ready to run in the yard awaiting their fate, fryer or layer.

Used to be that this time of the year in Kenai we’d know to expect a major snow storm mid-March just as the sun has begun to melt open spots onto the lawn. I remember one year having more snow on St. Patrick’s Day than we had had on Christmas, and everyone just said “Of course, it’s Alaska,” but nowadays, it seems we can’t depend on the old memories to predict anything. Not even the unpredictability of Kenai weather. Last year in March, I wrote about a giant icicle. Don’t think it will happen this year. We have a tiny one on the corner, but it is dripping like mad. Which doesn’t preclude a major freeze up in the next couple of weeks but long range forecasts (such as they are) don’t predict it.

Of course the other big signal that spring is here is when we spring ahead to daylight savings time. That happens next week. We’re already an hour off of sun time but the state legislature doesn’t seem inclined to change the state back to “real” time. Remember when we could boast that we had 5 time zones?

But, hey! We made it through another winter. It’s March and any inclement weather now can last only so long and then it will be spring whatever that means this year. Anybody care to bet whether we hunt Easter eggs in the snow?

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at vewalters@gci.net.

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