Near where I live the daffodils – harbingers of spring to many people – often start blooming in mid-December, so they are clearly not a (locally) reliable indicator of when spring has started. And talking of spring, there are several different ways to interpret the seasons, including spring, of course, but I tend to go with the meteorological seasons. This is a long-standing habit, and in South Africa (southern hemisphere, obviously) I used to celebrate the start of spring there, on the 1st of September, by refusing to wear anything warmer than a shirt when going to work, regardless of the weather. This meant I occasionally endured very cold mornings, stupidly only wearing a button-up work shirt, though most of the time it was fine. As it happens, I’m in good company with sticking to meteorological seasons – the UK’s Met Office does the same.
The meteorological system is favoured by scientists, because it divides the seasons into quarter years that fit exactly with our Gregorian calendar, meaning spring starts on the 1st of March and ends on the 31st of May, in the northern hemisphere.
To me, spring starts at the latest on the 1st of March, so four weeks away from now.
With all of that said, I’ll let you into a little secret: while broadly speaking, I go by meteorological seasons, in real terms, I go by nature. Seasons don’t care about calendars, Gregorian or other, and sometimes spring is early, while other times it’s late.
For years, I cycle commuted daily the 15 miles each way, and winter commutes were dark commutes. Somewhere along my old commute, in the middle of nowhere, there’s a single patch where the snowdrops would bloom earlier than anywhere else. It would be dark when I cycled past that point, but when my bike’s headlight caught the snowdrops, my heart would soar. That moment right there to me signified the start of spring.
Oh sure, there will always be a few cold spells after that point, but in my heart I knew that winter’s back was broken, and warmer days lay ahead. We had a full snowmageddon in March before, and we even had light snow in April before, but to me that doesn’t alter what the snowdrops tell me: spring has started.
COVID changed the world, and I don’t cycle commute anymore, but work full-time from home, instead. As a result, I missed when the snowdrops bloomed in that one particular spot. This past weekend I went walking on Dartmoor with my youngest daughter, and on the way we saw loads of snowdrops. I’m not a winter person. I can deal with the cold, but the constant greyness gets to me. I live in Devon, where many buildings are built from the local, grey granite, and in the city of Plymouth, they appear to have a love affair with the colour grey. So much so that they paint buildings, or parts of buildings, that colour. It’s bloody depressing!
Any hint of spring therefore lifts my spirits. It tells me warm, sunny days will soon be here again. It tells me the time for heading off on regular adventures is almost upon us, and serves as a reminder that I need to get my plans sorted and firmed up.
It tells me it’s almost time to turn my face to the sun.
We made it through another winter, and life is good.