Tuesday, March 6

The Advance of Spring, or The Equinox Doth Not Tell It

"Every morning now is a fresh wonder, no two quite the same. Thursday, March 1, a cloudless day, the wind blowing easily across the city ." So says Louis J. Halle in his ever-refreshing Spring in Washington (1947, 1957, my Atheneum PB edition from 1963).

Halle rode his bicycle to work at the State Department from his home over the river in Virginia, riding through the parks and watching the life cycles of the birds. whose behaviour sginalled to him the coming of spring weeks before the equinox.

"The mathematicians reckon that spring begins March 21, but the mathematicians are a month behind the season the year around. For those who observe the first signs, spring comes earlier than others know. Before the end of January, while the scenery remains desolate and the sun leaves no warmth, the first sparks are already being enkindled in the breasts of songbirds. As I left my home at daybreak January 22, under a cloud rack becoming visible, in a dead tree across the street a cardinal was singing cue-cue-cue-cue-cue-cue rapidly, all on one pitch and without variation. [and get this!] Up to that moment, for many silent months, I do not recall that my mind had been occupied with other than the indoor thoughts of the hive. In its dark winter quarters it had survived entirely on a diet of paper...."

What writing! And what lovely first hand observations you can share as you perch on his shoulder on those bike rides. Especially vivid to me were the descriptions of Rock Creek Park in both its urban and rustic aspects, because I one lived for five years a few blocks from the edge of the Park. To live in an urban neighborhood but close enough to a small wilderness that pileated woodpeckers perch in the top of the magnolia across the street and at dusk you can watch raccoons in their capable but ungainly descent from the shade oaks is to have the opportunity to observe nature. Once while living in our three story house I happened to go out on a porch rooftop. For the first time in my life I saw warblers. Three stories up (because of the basement) there was another view of my environment. So, Halle is an inspiration to anyone who loves to watch the natural world and its cycles. If the book is not still in print, I'm sure you can find a copy at abebooks.
Coming up: a perfect children's book! (Hint: Publ. 1907 or 1911)

1 comment:

Bri said...

It got down to 7 degrees at my place last night (a record!); how nice to read about spring happening early! So true.

Both homeless cats spent the night on our couch. Bitter cold trumps bitter fighting, apparently. I went up to bed early (and read Travels with Charley) so they wouldn't be too scared to come inside and warm up.

Nice post!