Despite passing of equinox, spring is still hard to find
In “The Rite of Spring,” Stravinsky put to beautiful music one of the many pagan ceremonies that humankind has used through the years to explain the changing seasons.
In “Fantasia,” Disney used the title and the music to depict in animation the creation of the world, complete with dinosaurs.
My favorite spring myth is the Greek story of Persephone. She was the beautiful daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. She was abducted by Hades and carried away into the depths of the Earth. Demeter vowed to allow no harvest until she should see her daughter again. She finally accepted the gods’ proposal that Persephone should spend at least part of the year with her.
And so, according to one translation, Persephone spends the winter months below the ground, but when she comes back to her mother in the spring, the Earth will burst into bloom with “flocks of sweet-smelling flowers,” and the fruit will grow on the trees.
Some of the most beautiful flowers in the world came, not from the ground, but from the passionate mind and hand of Georgia O’Keefe.
Musicians and poets and artists glorify spring, making it sound romantic and warm and beautiful and inspiring.
But in cold, hard actuality, here in the Banana Belt, a better literary description is Wallace Stevens’: “Poor, dear, silly Spring, preparing her annual surprise!”
After all these years, why should it be a surprise? Sometime in February we get a couple of those beautiful spring-like days that make even those of us who have been around here a long time turn off reality and think, “Oh, this year will be different. It is really spring and I can breathe again.” And then — whammo — freezing weather and a foot of snow.
The surprise involves guessing which two days between January and July will actually be spring. The little purple crocuses pop through the gravel out my window in late February, and it has been known to snow in June. But sometime between a day when you bundle up against a temperature of 32 (this year make that 0) and the day when you take off all the clothes you modestly can and brave a temperature of 91, there are a couple of days of glorious Colorado spring.
It turns out that the dates of spring are simply a matter of custom, anyway. No formal governmental body ever declared that spring begins with the equinox and summer with the solstice. According to one climate researcher, “Although the sun-earth geometry is clearly the origin of the seasons on earth, it has nothing directly to do with temperature or weather.” We knew that all the time! In England what they call spring runs from February through April.
Lest you doubt the power of spring storms around here, the Guinness Book of World Records reports that the world record snowfall for a 24-hour period was 76 inches on April 14 and 15, 1921 at Silver Lake, Colorado — wherever that is. My friend the philosopher says that nobody knows where it is because it was buried under snow in 1921 and was never seen again.
Here in the Grand Valley, the natives claim to know when spring is here. It is when the neck of the swan on the Grand Mesa is broken. I wonder what the Greeks would have done with that one. Of course, you have to be able to find the swan before you can know the state of its neck.
The Denver Post has long proclaimed, “‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.” We have escaped the worst of El Niño, which cut such a vicious path across our country this year.
Yes, ‘tis really a privilege to live in Colorado. Spring is here when we feel it and smell it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. I know that spring will come again. I’ll know it when I can smell it.