I’m a Spring Teaser

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Charles Dudley Warner
(The witticism is often attributed erroneously to Mark Twain.)

I have been forecasting the weather forever.

One of my favorite “meteorological barometers” is the sky! I stare at it. I swear by it.

I especially swear by “Red sails at night, sailors delight. Red sails at morning, sailors take warning.”

Who would have thought that variations of that weather adage go all the way back to Shakespeare (“Venus and Adonis” [lines 453-46]) and to the Bible (Matthew XVI: 2-3)?

Be that as it may, it gives me lots of traction, especially when it comes to forecasting fierce thunderstorms and fierce snowstorms.

And that’s exactly how I like like my storms and my forecasts. Fierce.  “Fierce” may not be a crowd pleaser, but it’s a sure-fire attention getter.

Without doubt, forecasting the weather predates my modest efforts. It also predates Biblical weather forecasting by Lord knows how long.

Well, we do know that it goes at least as far back as 650 B.C., when the Babylonians predicted weather based on clouds and haloes.

Then around 340 B.C., Aristotle wrote his Meteorologica, a treatise about rain, clouds, hail, wind, thunder, lightning, and hurricanes. It remained the weather standard until the 17th century.

Fast forward from then until now. The advances are far too many for me to mention even briefly. Lucky me. Luckier you.

But there is one fancy scientific gadget for forecasting weather that stands heads and shoulders above the rest.

I mention it only because I own one. It’s a Fitzroy Storm Glass. A group of my creative writing students gave it to me years ago.

I wish that you could see it. I keep it in my kitchen on top of a fabulous antique corn sheller. About all that I can say for it–the Fitzroy, not the corn sheller–is that it’s a wonderful objet d’art, and it always draws attention to the corn sheller. (Other folks, it seems, are no more interested in a scientific approach to weather forecasting than I am.)

Nonetheless, I have a pretty good track record when it comes to predicting storms, particularly snowstorms.

If you want proof, ask around. Neighbors. Students. Colleagues.

Better still, ask my former and present college presidents. I always give a heads up when a snowstorm is headed our way. I want to make sure that the “college-closed announcements” go out early–preferably the night before–so that I can sleep in the next day. Ah! The exquisite luxury of getting up at five instead of four!

And if those folks won’t give me credit for my SnowCasting accuracy, let me just say this in self-defense. What I lack in accuracy I make up for in hype. I’m a snow-hype maximizer. Local grocery store chains love it when I get folks all cooked up over a storm headed our way. I’m the one who spurs on all the frenzied shopping that leaves all the shelves empty.

That’s what I’ve been told at any rate.  I hope that’s true, because then I won’t feel too bad when my forecasts are from time to time hundreds of miles or so off track or a few weeks behind or a few weeks ahead of schedule. They’re still good for the local economy.

If you’re wondering how I established my track record for weather forecasting and my reputation for weather hype, let me explain.

It’s as simple as I am. I use one of the oldest methods ever: patterning. I observe what’s happening in the natural world around me. Trust me: I’ve been around long enough to put two and two together and come up with lots of observations and patterns. Sometimes they’re about the weather.

Patterns are helpful–really helpful–in predicting the arrival of spring (Vernal Equinox) as I am about to do right here for 2022, soon and very soon.

However, before sharing those patterns and my prediction for spring’s arrival, there’s something that I simply must get off my chest.

I know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on February 2, ran back inside, warning us all of six more weeks of winter, thereby putting his official arrival of spring pretty close to what it would be officially this year anyway: March 20.

But based on what I’m seeing in my local mountain patterns, I’m convinced that the famed Pennsylvania groundhog (Marmota monax) is wrong.

Actually, I’m so convinced that I have every intention of getting my own groundhog. Her full name will be one that regular folks can pronounce from one year to the next without having to consult HowtoPronounce. Hmmm. Edinburg Eve might be perfect.

Then I’ll set up my own groundhog club right here on my mountain, right in my own backyard! It would be locally significant, and it would draw world-wide media attention. (Note to myself: This is, without doubt, a perfect GoFundMe dream opportunity. Be careful not to share this idea with others. Someone will steal it for sure. This is hot. Really hot.)

Here’s how I know that Phil is wrong, based on six patterns showing up around here.

No. 1. When my witch hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana) blooms. I can always count on a bouquet by the end of February. This year, though, I gifted a neighbor with some blooming branches in early January. That’s a healthy month earlier than usual. It probably, perhaps, doesn’t mean a thing.

No. 2. When local striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) mate. Around these parts, they mate in mid-February, no doubt because of Valentine’s Day. This year, they’ve been at it since late December. They get so carried away by their amorous pursuits that I see them all the time, all on and all along the highways. Dead. That’s even more than a month early. It probably, perhaps, doesn’t mean a thing either, other than stinky dead skunks.

No. 3. When my mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) start courting.  Charlie and Alabaster took up here years ago, and they normally start their courting rituals in late February. But as I live and breathe, when I looked out onto my deck last week, there they were, feathers puffed and ruffled, cooing and wooing and strutting all around with no shame whatsoever. That’s the third early spring harbinger that I am witnessing.  It has to mean something.

No. 4. When robins (Turdus migratorius) return to the area. Although I have not seen a single, solitary robin yet, I have heard from my faithful weather correspondent in Strasburg (Virginia, not Austria) that robins appeared in her yard last week, a full month earlier than usual.

No. 5. When my tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) start budding. They never bud until late March, sometimes early April. Guess what? They have swollen buds right now. One more piece of evidence. One more pattern.

No. 6. I saved the best for last. When the faerie ring (Crocus fatum) blooms. The same well-informed and faithful Strasburg informant just a few days ago informed me that her faerie ring is blooming. As proof that it was blooming on time, she shared a copy of the email that she sent me last year on February 9 announcing her blooming faerie. Oh, dear. Now that I’m re-reading her emails more carefully, it seems that her point was nothing more than the fact that her faerie ring is blooming right on time. Still, this piece of evidence could have been so strong and so convincing that I don’t have the heart to take it out.

Taken singly, the evidence probably, perhaps, might not mean anything. Yet I am mindful of the power of one.

Taken collectively, the evidence probably, perhaps, might mean everything. I am mindful of the power of many.

Before I make my declaration about spring’s arrival (which I am about to do), let me say succinctly, as is my custom to which you can attest, that my declaration is based on the full reckoning of all the scientific evidence, weather lore, and mountain patterns at my disposal, offset and adjusted as necessary to advance my own whims based on how the winds blow.

We are, as I have shown clearly and convincingly, one full month ahead of schedule in terms of the arrival of spring weather.

Yes: more snows will probably, perhaps, fall.

Yes: the innumerable meteorologists who are probably, perhaps, reading this post right now, hoping to strengthen their own forecasts and give themselves greater credibility (albeit stolen), are scratching their proverbial heads trying to make sense of it all. I wish them well.

But pay neither the snow nor the meteorologists no mind whatsoever.

What Mother Nature knows, she knows.

And has she not brought forth into full and plain view, for everyone to see and now to understand, evidence from a wide assortment of her best witnesses? She has.

Witch hazel. Skunks. Robins. Tree peonies. Faerie rings.

As you share this spring teaser with social media far and wide–and I hope that you will–remember not only to consider but also to credit the source.

You heard it first, right here. An early spring awaits us. I tease you not.

7 thoughts on “I’m a Spring Teaser

  1. Your doves came back! I’m glad to hear. My newly planted peonies have also started to bloom as well as the oldest pear tree on the property. We haven’t been in MS long but I do know when the wind picks up there will be a shift in temperature. I’m interested to see if this holds true in the summer. My gardening tools are sharpened and ready for their tasks. Bring on spring!


    • Actually, Charlie and Alabaster stay here all year. It’s simply that their spring mating rituals make me aware of their presence.

      Even MS has weather patterns, so pay attention to the way the winds blow!

      I am delighted that you have your gardening tools sharpened and ready: you’ll be using them soon and very soon!


  2. You’re right: I heard it here first. And I’ll quote you when I repeat the news. ;-)

    This post, more than others, has so much that reminds me of Dave Barry and his dry sarcasm and satire. I laughed aloud more than once, and I see many quotables in here that should be on shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, you name it. Maybe etch one or two on that Fitzroy.


    • Dave Barry! Wow! What a compliment, especially since he’s one of my favorite essayists. Thank you!

      More, perhaps, thank you for letting me know that you “laughed aloud more than once.” Aside from announcing early spring weather, my sole intent was laughter. I laughed a lot while writing the essay, hoping that my readers would laugh while reading.

      And I love your idea of quotables on shirts, bumper stickers, and billboards! I’ll get back to you after I get in touch with Amazon!


  3. I clicked on the link to faerie rings and was surprised to learn that “faerie” and “fairy” are two entirely different beings. “Faerie” is the evil sister (think banshee), and “fairy” is the nice sister (think Tinkerbell). I’m sorry to see that your Strasburg intelligencer has the bad kind in her “crocus fatum.”


    • Ah, yes! ‘Tis very true. Thank you for following the link and for sharing your observations here.

      I have no doubt whatsoever that my Strasburg intelligencer planted her faerie ring deliberately as a set up! She loves intrigue, and she is herself a bit of a faerie!


  4. Pingback: Looking Back on 2022 with Heartfelt Thanks! | The Wired Researcher

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