Ours has been a somewhat unusual spring. After a mild winter, early spring turned cold. Looking back to previous years, marker after marker seems late: the birch sap hasn’t risen to tapping point yet; we haven’t seen any mosquitoes; many of the plants that usually bud out have shown no growth as yet. If it weren’t for increased activity out in Lynn Canal, spring would still seem far away.
This changed March 30th. The cold snap ebbed, giving way to rain and warmer temperatures. More significantly, the air began to smell differently.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about recording. With increasing daylight, I’m considering video projects that have been deferred through the dark months. I’m even thinking about the possibility of adding a podcast component to this blog. But how can I record this very real shift in our environment—this spring break—to give you an idea of its qualities or significance?
The fragrance is a combination of smells: damp earth, ripening tree buds, wet trees, all due to higher humidity. It’s also a touch of warmth and wetness that might best be described as softness.
They say that our olfactory senses are the most evocative of memory, so it makes sense that the psychological, emotional break through from winter to spring would be triggered by our sense of smell more than sight or hearing. There’s a metaphoric correctness to the literal breathing in and breathing out of the season, of infusing it in our bodies in a truly physical way. It leaves me feeling restored, renewed.
It’s a bit ironic that this happened the day before, and continued on Easter Sunday. Growing up in Southeast Alaska, I’ve always been mistrustful of the common tendancy to consider Easter the harbinger of spring. Being a lunar holiday (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) its range from late March to late April (the earliest possible Easter is March 22, the latest April 27, but these exremes are rare) makes it a precarious weather marker at best. As a minister’s son, I’ve shoveled more than my share of Easter morning snow from church porches; memories of sunrise services include hard ice and numb fingers, as well as the warm fragrance of alder and cottonwood blooms. It simply doesn’t pay to proclaim that the day on which Easter falls in a given year is actually spring in Southeast Alaska.
So I’m a bit suspicious of this spring break coming right at this year’s Easter, one of the earlier possible. Surely, this can’t be it—another hard freeze or significant snowfall must be lurking in the wings, waiting for us to grow complacent before swooping down upon us with a triumphant yell.
So be it. For all I can do about it, I may as well stand out at the edge of the beach, basking in the view, breathing deeply of the spring air for as long as it may last.
Here’s the full run down on Easter dates. Or, try this one, which is a bit more relatable, somehow. I found these rather interesting. I guess we won’t see the earliest possible Easter in our lifetimes, but we will see the latest 3 years from now.