As I bounded out of the front door today to begin my ride, I glanced to my right. The bush next to the front steps was in full bloom. I couldn’t believe it—that’s an azalea bush. They don’t usually bloom here until mid to late April, and then on into mid-May, depending on the variety. This is March 29. I went back inside to tell Jane. “Yeah, I know,” she said nonchalantly. No big news to her. Of course she had spent yesterday outside, sprucing up the place in anticipation of houseguests who will be arriving ahead of Matt’s wedding tomorrow. “O brave new world!” . . . “’Tis new to thee.”
Pumped up the tires to the right pressure, got on the bike, rolled out the driveway, hit the Academy Street downhill. The first thing I noticed was the yellow dust haze on the black center of my tires, between the blue sidewalls. Tree pollen. First time this year. More of it lay ahead, wherever there were early-blooming maples and even oaks. If I were a Virginia farmer I would be thinking about planting corn, which traditionally goes in the ground when the new oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear. We have even more new oak leaves than squirrels right now. It is March 29. The statistical date of last frost here is April 24. But I am guessing that we have seen our last frost of the winter as of today.
Along the trail a miracle occurs. Ahead of me is a long jagged crack across the asphalt. As I approach it comes alive, moves to the right, zigs where it used to zag. I swerve to miss it, a 2-½ foot long Black Snake. It decided to come out from its winter den and warm its reptilian body in the 56° air and high, warm sun. It is March 29. The snake gives me great joy. Its transformation from crack to serpent is no less a miracle than the coming alive of the walking stick of the dark stranger who meets Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown in the woods, or the staffs of Moses and Aaron before the Pharaoh. Besides being a voracious eater of vermin, there is something assertive, mysterious, alien about a snake, something celebratory in its response to the warmth of a new spring, a new year.
But that new spring is coming so early. Conservatives say that if it walks like a tax, quacks like a tax, and swims like a tax, then it’s a tax. This logic may be imperfect. But if they embrace it, they ought to be candid enough to admit that if it walks like global warming, quacks like global warming, and swims like global warming, then it’s global warming. They’re the ones with most of the waterfront property. They’ll find out when their beach houses are awash.
Meanwhile, I’m going to get in as much good riding as I can before the new, improved, globally warmed summer arrives.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.