Sunday, March 17, 2013


For the last week or so, I’ve been keeping my senses alert for the earliest signs of spring.

In a lot of ways, spring is our most flamboyant season but I just know, somewhere out there, it’s making a subtle entrance.

Despite the cold chill and the last flurries, I know spring is happening, can feel it in my bones.

The race is on.  Spring.  Nature’s first green.

But I didn’t want to catch the kind of spring that makes the news. 

That kind of spring is easy to see, hard to overlook.  It’s a princess.  I wanted to find the kind of spring that doesn’t need to announce itself, the kind of spring that opens the windows for the rest of the season, the trigger that draws back the curtains and calls the rest of the kingdom to rise.

That was my hunt: spring’s modesty.

I wanted to find the meek spring before its gets too gaudy and too flashy.

It’ll take keen eyes, a quiet mind and small hands to notice its arrival but isn’t that always the case when it comes to noticing humility?

There are, of course, the big signs of spring, signs so big that they are beyond my four dimensions, signs that go unnoticed by my own feeble five senses.

Like the length of days.  Beginning on March 17th, the day is now equal parts sunlight and moonlight.  Check the almanac.  Sunrise at 6:52am, sunset at 6:53pm.

The twelve-hour day is back.

We’re seven days ahead of Daylight Savings Time, six days past the new moon, two days beyond the Ides of March and three days away from the vernal equinox.

According to the Medicine Wheel, we’re in the transitional phases between the Big Wind Moon and the Budding Trees Moon.

But look at that calendar.

This March spans five weeks, enough room to squeeze in just a few extra phases.  This is sometimes called the Full Worm Moon, a time when the ground softens and the worms begin turning the soil and crawling back into the sunlight which is, itself, a trigger for the birds to return. 

Up north in New England, they call it the Full Sap Moon because it’s the harvest time for maple syrup.  Go even further north, up there where the new angle of the sun now bounces off the everlasting ice, and they call it the Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow.

But all that is just pie-in-the-sky mumbo jumbo.  What really matters?  The world is no longer pointed north.  East has arrived, spring should be here, last moon of winter.

Thank Wabun, last moon of winter.

Now, where you at, spring?


There are five common street trees that are reliably known for early spring flowering: maple, pear, cherry, dogwood, magnolia.

Thanks to all those bright lights and all that heavy traffic, plus all that body heat, the inner city grid is warmer compared to the still wild parts of the city.

So it isn’t hard to see spring’s arrival down here on the mean streets.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Shiver me timbers, it’s cold out there.

Cold and gray, wet and cloudy.

I was out walking through Center City, weaving my way through the rat race.

The temperature?  Just barely above freezing.  Even the sunshine seemed frozen.

And the trees?  Still dormant.  Maybe, if you looked hard enough, you could see the faint hue of spring budding on the tips of their branches but mostly they're just lifeless, gray hunks of wood stuck in the ground.

The brisk cold burned my ears, dried my eyes and stiffened my knees.  I braced myself around every corner.  It was stark, grim and plain.  The wind pushed me against the skyscraper walls and my footsteps made hollow chimes as if the whole world was made of glass.

Sometimes, I think it is.

To keep my mind from numbing, I tried to remember and recite my tree poetry but even that provided no refuge. 

All I could remember was the famous line from Shakespeare’s sonnet, the one that describes the bird-less trees as bare ruined choirs, or the Edgar Allan Poe epic that begins: The skies they were ashen and sober, the leaves they were crisped and sereit was down in the dank tarn of Auber, in the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

That wasn’t going to work.

I could’ve handled the bad weather, maybe, if I wasn’t sharing it with so many other people.  They weren’t making it any easier.

The rat race was in full swing that afternoon…people racing from one side of the street to the other, pushing their way out of the buildings, shoving and hollering, weaving in between the jammed up cars…talking about sitcoms and surgeries and lotteries…poking me with their umbrellas, arguing on the cell phone, spilling coffee, begging for money, sneezing in my face and littering.

You ever want to feel lonely?

Then plant yourself in a crowded city street.

Maybe it was the weather, these last days of winter gloom, but it seemed like all those people…the whole wretched hive…were just buzzing around for one reason and one reason only: to get in my way.

Don’t worry.  I pushed right back.

That’s called the nature of the beast, baby.

When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I looked for the nearest exit.

I needed a small escape, just needed to break loose from the rat race, just for a little while, so I ducked into the first warm door.

Lucky for me, it was the door to the Academy of Natural Sciences.