Saturday, March 1, 2008

Meteorological spring

I read the newspaper with a quick and critical eye. Sometimes it’s too quick: this morning I had to back up and read again, because I thought I had read that today was the first day of spring. The re-read provided this annoyance: it’s the first day of meteorological spring. It’s not clear to me why the meteorologists should have their own first day of spring. The equinoctial spring has served us well for centuries: why change it now?

If we’re going to do this, why not have a first day of spring for the cardinals? Several weeks ago the cardinals began to sing in earnest in the morning. That was the first day of cardinal spring. A bit later they were joined on different days by the chickadees, titmice, song sparrows and mourning doves. Each should have its own first day of spring. When the peepers start, that will be a major first day of spring for them and for me.

It really annoys me when people try to rename things by piggybacking onto existing things. Why should public amenities built generations ago be renamed for current celebrities and politicians? If the celebrities and politicians in question had a prominent hand in building something, then let that something be named for them. Otherwise, it's grave robbing, stealing from the dead.

Why try to muddle the age-old date of the beginning of spring? Is Toronto’s “meteorological spring” the same as ours? Is Atlanta’s?

Those of us who observe the natural world don’t need to be told the date of the arrival of spring. That’s one of those things which is meaningful only in a very local sense, and it varies from year to year. A fixed date for the arrival of spring is by its very nature an unnatural thing. We already have one, we don’t need another one.

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