Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marking Spring

There are three primary events that mark spring in our upstate New York town. The first is the day the ice breaks from the Mohawk River. The ice jam starts in a couple of narrow parts of the River, or against a the abutments of a particular bridge, and creates a one-to-two mile jam of ice floes piled against each other, some reaching to the sky on their edges. Some years, this is a calamitous event which leads to widespread flooding in parts of Schenectady, including the historic Stockade area. This year the icy traffic jam only lasted a few days, and broke through after a few sunny days in the 40s. No need to invoke the flood evac plans.

The second event is opening day at Jumpin’ Jacks. Jacks is the classic burger, hot dog, and fries concession stand , with an ice cream store right next door. The owner opens on the third or fourth Thursday each year (figuring he would get the weekend customers anyway, regardless of the novelty of opening day). The TV crews always show up, cars jockey for the few parking spots, the outdoor line snakes through the switchback barriers to the windows, and plenty of cheeseburgers are absorbed by people shivering at the riverside picnic tables.

Finally, there is my favorite opening day: the first day of the baseball season. I’m still hoping that this becomes a national holiday. But as long as March Madness dribbles into April, I’m not optimistic.

Those three calendar markers have passed this year. None of them occurred, of course, in warm spring weather in upstate New York. We only get teased during the transition seasons; a sunny 55 degree day will spring up in late March, only to revert the next three days to spitting sleet and biting 30 degree winds. We are now in the third week of April, and 50 degree sun is finally the norm rather than the exception. Tulips are just starting to show their colors, and the forsythia is starting to burst.

So what are all these pics?

These marvelous pictures are from Charleston, South Carolina, a month ago. Pam and I traveled to find spring in mid-March, which is when our calendars actually identify it. Charleston is a unique place to watch spring arrive. We shed our winter skins on warm 60-75 degree days, toured gardens in the historic district, took a carriage ride through the narrow streets, and visited the largest romantic garden in the country. Pam has an eye for the colorful flowering world, besides being an inveterate gardener. She took a great collection of pictures.

This trip was a Valentine gift, and was accompanied by this poem:


We can find spring
when petals rise and
waters warm,
where sun starts early
and rays strike later.

We can see colors
other than white
when the day marks
the solstice,
and we shed the heavy
quilt of winter.

We can touch
our ungloved hands
at the same time our hearts
remind us that we are one.