Monday, March 15, 2010

Melting apace: Spring musings (first installment)

Walden is melting apace. There is a canal two rods wide along the northerly and westerly sides, and wider still at the east end. A great field of ice has cracked off from the main body. I hear a song sparrow singing from the bushes on the shore -- olit, olit, olit, -- chip, chip, chip, che char, -- che wiss, wiss, wiss. He too is helping to crack it.  - Thoreau, Walden
The backyard, late last week. Still snowy. 

The snow is melting, the rains are falling, and spring is dropping some pretty strong hints of its imminent arrival. Folks all around the New River Valley are noting this warming - a friend at work paused in her tasks, giddily telling me that her husband called just to tell her that "the last of the snow finally melted in our yard." It's been a long, hard winter here, and we've had snow on the ground for months.

Hammock, awaiting spring.
As I write this it's just six days away from the Vernal Equinox, which officially occurs next Saturday, March 20, at 1:32 EDT. Astronomically speaking, the equinox occurs at the point when the sun crosses the equator as it moves from south to north. Day and night are roughly equal then - hence, "equinox." Here's a nifty image that shows the Earth's alignment with the sun:

Practically speaking, it means that Spring begins in just a few days, as that big ol' nearby star continues to warm our little green planet. At least that's true in the Northern Hemisphere, but our friends down below the equator will be experiencing their Autumnal Equinox, as fall starts for them.
Dog toys, long covered with snow, emerge during the Great Melting

It's been a long, eventful winter. We witnessed (and shoveled, sloughed through, slipped in, discussed, ruminated, cursed, and marveled at) Blacksburg's largest accumulative winter snowfall in years (52 inches).  At home, our quarter-century old oil furnace slowly slipped into decline, finally dying the same day that our new natural gas line was run to the house. Our new, highly efficient furnace is quietly warming the house as I write. (The photo on the left documents the brief time between heaters - the oil monster is gone, the natural gas one is ready to be installed.)

On the family front, we witnessed a decline in our parents' health, with my mother moving to an assisted living facility near our house on New Years' Eve, which is the major reason that this blog has been neglected over the winter. We packed my mother's house, moved her here, and have been settling her in and dealing with her various health issues since she arrived. But spring is almost here, and the song sparrow will soon be singing from the bushes.  We're quite ready for it, thank you.

Awaiting spring, Heritage Park, Blacksburg
Sources: Henry David Throeau, Walden; "The March Equinox,"