How Fast?

How fast is it coming? Spring, I mean. The Real Spring, I mean – not that useless calendrical equinox.

Well, opinions vary (I bet you didn’t see that coming), but here’s one estimate for North America.

Spring moves northward at about 16 miles per day, or about 100 miles per week. This only applies on ground level (say, the Great Plains). Spring moves uphill at about 100 feet per day. – An Adirondack Naturalist in Illinois

The British Science Association got right into this a few years ago.

An average of 1.2mph was recorded using data between 1891 and 1947 and 1.8mph from figures taken between 1998 and 2014. Speed of travel from south to north in 2015 (appearance of event):

      • Ladybird – 6.5mph
      • Hawthorn leafing – 6.3mph
      • Swallows arriving – 2.4mph
      • Hawthorn flowering – 1.9mph
      • Orange tip butterfly – 1.4mph
      • Oak first leafing – 1.3mph
      • Frogspawn – 1mph

One UK magazine even sent one of their editors off on a cycling trip to follow Spring.

Each year, as we leave Points South for the Great White North at the end of March or thereabouts, I feel Spring slipping away. Two days of high-speed car travel take us from azaleas in full bloom through forsythias to bare-branched forests and remnants of plowed-and-piled-up snow. I won’t say it’s crushing, exactly, but it’s not my favourite.

At least I know that Spring is coming. Soon? Well, let’s see: It’s 989 miles from Myrtle Beach to Ottawa. Divided by 16 miles/day, that makes it about 62 days. Oh dear. I think I’ll go with the British rule-of-thumb, which makes it only about 22 days.

Heading North in March

Rampant azaleas
jostle each other,
pulling focus in unremarkable yards.
Rosy hedges spill across property lines:
straggles of lovely.

It can’t last.

Tidy forsythia bushes
distance themselves carefully,
lighting up unremarkable lawns.
Lemony singletons dot the countryside:
clumps of cheerful.

It can’t last.

Troops of conifers
stare straight ahead,
anchoring the unremarkable Shield.
Drab gray thickets fill in the gaps:
tangles of glum.

It can’t last.

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10 Responses to How Fast?

  1. Tom Watson says:

    In my neck of the woods, Spring began pushing Winter out the back door a couple of weeks ago…but Winter keeps its elbow in the door jamb and is trying desperately not to have to leave. Today it snowed. Spring’s going to have to give it another oomph!

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Loved “clumps of cheerful” and “tangles of glum.” You’re doing something new here, that I don’t remember seeing in years-ago posts. The only word I hesitate over is “straggles” — it feels so un-effusive. And spring is, gloriously, effusive, isn’t it?

    Welcome back.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – <> Thanks! And yes, feeling a poetical urge a bit more these days. I take your point about “straggles” – that describes their general unkemptness but not their enthusiasm. I will ponder.

  3. We’ve made the trip north in prior years, but so poetically.

    Nicely done!

  4. Today, my sister is reminiscing over letters from me sent when I married in mid-December (1975) and traveled by car to live in northern Florida. My descriptions are the reverse of yours: of the diminishing of full-blast Canadian winter through “fall” in the Carolinas to arrive in Florida just before its spring burst into what felt to me like instant summer. Until then, my concept of an azalea was a potted plant that bloomed prettily on a coffee table indoors. The 15-foot high azalea bushes twice that wide dotted all over the University of Florida campus were quite the surprise.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – 🙂 We do that reverse trip most years also, but try to get out of Dodge before the big snows come, so the contrast is not as stark, especially if we head SW rather than due south. I’ll pay better attention next year – nice to think about escaping winter’s hand. As for the 15-foot azaleas, I had the same reaction to hibiscus hedges in Guatemala.

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