Friday, March 1, 2013

Neither A Lion Nor A Lamb

March can be a strange month.  Winter is not quite done with us yet spring often gets off to a pretty slow start.  Some have said that if the month gets off to a rocky start . . . “coming in like a lion” . . . which is more often the case, the end of the month and the early days of April will finally witness the approach of spring . . . “going out like a lamb.”

It all depends where you live.  Here in Maryland, however, it is difficult to say what March might have in store for us in the way of weather.  I am just happy that February is behind us.  I have never had much love for this shortest of months.  Thankfully I bid it a hasty farewell.

Meteorologists have long considered March 1 the first day of spring. However, the traditional beginning of the spring season, the Vernal Equinox (also known as the March or Northward Equinox), does not usually occur in the northern hemisphere until around March 20.  I was born on March 21 and my family and I have always considered myself a “spring baby.”

Just about a month ago, Punxsutawney Phil, that prognosticator of prognosticators, stepped out of his hole on a cold morning in central Pennsylvania and announced to the world (or at least to central Pennsylvania) that he did not see his shadow and that we might expect an early spring.  Whether you believe Phil or not, this February has been one of the snowiest in recent memory, especially here in the East.  Much of the country still seems to be in the strong grasps of winter as cold fronts and storm systems continue to work their way across the country from west to east.  The latest GPS models posted today suggest that a significant winter storm may impact the Mid-Atlantic states sometime in the coming week, although it appears that the Washington metropolitan area will see nothing more than rain, or possible a wintry mix.

The changeable weather brings about a whole different type of “March Madness.”  This is the month that college students traditionally head to warmer climes to celebrate their annual spring break from the books.  Back in my day students more often than not headed for the Florida beaches.  Having attended college in Florida, this was never a big draw for me; I could go to the beach any time I wanted.  Now, many head to the beaches of Texas, and to Mexico where the dollar goes just a little further. 

Still, there is no doubt that spring is quickly approaching. Driving by the local elementary school I see colored flowers taped to the windows instead of snowflakes.  Here in Maryland sailors and boatyard workers will celebrate the “Burning of the Socks.”  They only wear socks during the winter months, and with the arrival of warmer temperatures, it will be time to cast the sock aside until the cold returns in late autumn.  The days are gradually warming up, and the sap is beginning to rise in the local sugar maples.  Soon the buckets will be hanging from the taps and the sugarhouses will be producing this year’s maple syrup and sugar products.

Another sign of approaching spring is the daffodils and crocuses beginning pop out of the dormant winter soil.  Think of Act IV, Scene 4 of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.  Perdita exclaims:

    O Prosperina,
    For the flowers now, that frighted thou let’st fall
    From Dis’s waggon! daffodils,
    That come before the swallow dares, and takes
    The winds of March with beauty . . . .

Should we be aware of the Ides of March and what it signifies?  Maybe winter isn’t over yet.

Now I think back to that old saying about the month of March - in like a lion, out like a lamb - although given the strange weather patterns, the opposite might just as well be true.  This wisdom, which finds it origins in the positions of the constellations of Leo and Aries during mid-March, is traced back to John Fletcher’s (1579-1629) Wife of a Month (1624/1647).  “I would chuse March, for I would come in like a lion . . . But you would go out like a lamb when you went to [a] hanging.”  One can also trace it back to the Catalogue of English Proverbs (1670).

Who knows what March will bring?  Maybe a little more winter?  Maybe an early spring?  Patience my friends.  It will be what it will be.

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