The Circle Turns Toward Spring

It’s got to be here somewhere!

I have spoken before of our observance of the Celtic view of the seasons; how, as opposed to the current view that the first day of a season is marked by the date that falls closest to that season’s height, seasons begin as infants and grow to old age. Living in our part of the world, this concept is put to its greatest test now, as winter gives way to spring.

In the gentler seasons of the year, subtle hints of the newly ripening season to come are easier to find. Winter is different. February 1st or 2nd (opinions vary) the first day of spring, or Imbolc by the Celtic reckoning, is deep winter in every real sense in our part of the world. The signs of a nascent spring are generally buried under a couple of feet of snow. As Michelle jokes, the infant Spring is always a “preemie!”

We are not unique in this regard in the Northern Hemisphere. One need only look at the most well-known marker of the coming of spring, Groundhog Day. Evolving from the common practice of using certain days as “weather markers,” in which the weather on a given day predicts the weather to come, Groundhog Day holds that if a groundhog (a cute, chubby family of rodents also known by woodchuck, marmot, whistle pig, and many other colloquial names) emerges from hibernation and does not see its shadow, it will cease hibernating, somehow bringing winter to an end. If it’s a sunny day, and the emerging rodent sees his shadow, tradition holds that the timid little critter will become frightened, return to its burrow, and go back to sleep, thus bringing down an additional six weeks of winter on the heads of all in the area!

This is a confusing formula, because it relies on February 2nd to be a day of lousy weather for winter to pass, whereas if the day is sunny—perhaps one might even say “spring like”—we get more winter.

This confusion is probably just as well; it’s certainly highly emblematic of the weather chaos spring seems to inevitably bring. In spring, more than in any other season, any and all weather conditions seem to be possible!

It is, of course, true that the commonly held first day of spring falls six weeks after February 2nd. So, unless you’re in the mood for a party on the slightest excuse, or interested in groundhog soup, the whole exercise is a bit moot.

Our local groundhogs, marmots, are inevitably encased in many feet of snow on their designated day. They tend to make their burrows up in the mountains, and the snow pack there is formidable at this time of year. In fact, our marmots could wish for celebrity and weather power—for many marmots, the “spring awakening” comes when our grizzly and brown bears, newly emerged from their winter’s nap with claws grown sharp from disuse, mine for the marmots as little furry protein pellets. Perhaps those of us who experience a comparatively gentler spring awakening should be grateful, no matter what the next few months bring!

See photos of spring on the homestead here.

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