When is the first day of spring in the US? It depends on who you ask -- or what Google results you look at. If you're talking about the Vernal Equinox, when the sun is directly above the equator, it's on March 21 this year. If you think of spring as March, April and May, as meteorologists define it, then it's today, the first of March. If you define it by what the weather is like, then it's different in various parts of the country.
Here, in coastal Southern California, the weather is becoming spring-like, with sunnier days and warmer nights . In our year-round, relatively mild climate, though, it's also a state of mind. Here's what spring means to me:
Hope. Little birds--sparrows and brown towhees -- are bouncing around on the lawn, searching eagerly among the blades of grass. House finches and tiny goldfinches are singing and twittering in the alder tree, which is starting to leaf out. A lone mockingbird sings off and on all day at the top of a tree or the peak of a roof. It imitates a sparrowhawk, a house finch, an oriole, and sometimes a car alarm. Two red-shafted flickers, large woodpeckers, hop their way up the branches of the camphor tree, braced on their stiff tails. They call to each other with a sound like a referee's whistle and gorge themselves on berries. A scrub jay flies off the back fence and examines the neighbor's gigantic bushes. Maybe the jays will raise more chicks in them this year.
Renewal. The first roses have appeared. In the front yard, one of the hybrid teas has a huge white blossom about to open. In the back, a pale-pink-and-magenta-striped miniature rose is the first to bloom among the fifteen or so pots on the table. Every rose plant is covered in tender new buds. The apple tree is full of lacy pink blossoms. The butterfly bushes, trimmed almost to the ground in winter, are shooting green leafy branches skyward, and the tropical milkweed plants, some in pots and some in the ground, are leafing out as well. Milkweed is the host for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Maybe this year we'll have butterflies breeding in the spring as well as in the fall.
There's plenty to do in the garden. Last year's heirloom tomato is struggling to produce one last fruit before it dies. In another few weeks I can get new tomato plants for this year. Weeds, or "volunteers," as I like to call them, are popping up in the lawn and flower beds. They're all coming out -- well, except for the scarlet pimpernel and apple-scented geraniums. I like them, so they're staying.
The compost needs mixing, the lawn needs mowing, the weeds need pulling, and the walk needs sweeping. The fuschia needs the ends of its new growth pinched regularly for another month so that it will be dripping with red-and-white flowers when it finally blooms. The Mexican bay tree is over five feet tall (taller than I am!) and strangling in its tiny pot. The roses and other flowering plants want to be fed, and they want it now. I could putter in the garden all day.
Time for spring cleaning inside, darn it. Dusty shelves, unsorted clutter, and the carpet needs cleaning. Maybe I'll finally sort through all those boxes in the back bedroom. Then I'll start in the garage. I could fill up some boxes and bags and take them to Goodwill. Or should I have a yard sale? Or two, or three ... maybe this year I'll do less planning and, well, more doing?
And, when I get tired of that(which happens really fast!), I'll go putter in the garden some more. Then I'll dust off the camera and go looking for wildflowers and other cool stuff.
Is it spring where you are? What does spring mean to you? Is it about the weather, your state of mind, or a little of both?