By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette — Oddly and paradoxically, given winter’s onslaught this year, you started feeling hints of spring on blazing February days, when birds were busy koffee-klatching upon white ice shards in the Niagara, despite waterfowl being sadly thinned by that same ice covering needed minnows.
Inexorably, as March arrived like the proverbial lion, and snow melted, then reappeared, while the month advanced, spring came closer and closer from that point. Luminous skies some days made even white smoke pealing from factories look more poetic, heralding winter’s demise. Certain nights pinged with plentiful stars that seemed fresh and new. Eventually, the much-salted roads of a relentless season (featuring what had felt like some 140 snowfalls) became more of a memory; but not without Old Man Winter staying in the game, including via a mid-March blizzard and a last thump at month’s end.
Speaking of salt, this year’s winter was such a punishing throwback, right down to Georgia, that salt mining near Rochester, among other spots, thrived seven days a week, its employees doing round-the-clock, painstaking work down there to our collective benefit. (Labor that many, me included, couldn’t do.)
So spring has been emphatically earned this year, having fought a dialectical struggle with winter that two years ago was merely laughable, winter having thrown in the towel from almost the first round. (Remember those crazy buds of January, and temperatures soaring to over 80 March 21)? By contrast, a real winter brings a more savored spring? You bet, and as in the old tune, you can’t (or in Western New York shouldn’t) have one without the other.
Many tunesmiths used to salute a kinder new season with songs like “Spring Fever” or Vernon Duke’s old chestnut, “April in Paris,” and weren’t doing so as snowbirds roosting in Florida entire winters; but rather, with real northern gratitude.
This year’s delicate budding came roughly when it was supposed to, with spring’s advent the twin effort it should be up north: an exhausted winter in bitter retreat, versus Young Pup spring punching back with saccharine sweetness, their bouts won or lost depending on the March, then April day.
Winter’s known for its white, gray, and blue (that is, when skies cooperate, as they often did this year). And spring? After the initial dun color you see everywhere and snow remnants still around, it garbs itself in a growingly prevalent green — that being the season’s most significant, life-giving color.
For Europeans this is considered a first time, even a birth — as in the French term “printemps” or the Italian “primavera” (which isn’t just pasta!). It’s a season that brings keen hopes of renewal in flora and fauna, and in humans, too. Suddenly you see a renewed frenzy for the outdoors, and some still odd-looking shorts (I won’t even talk about shorts worn by certain January masochists, when temperatures frequently dropped to the single digits!).
On a more realistic note, wars invariably resumed in springtime, too, after each side’s contestants had sat in winter quarters during extended conflicts like the Thirty Years War.
Much later, Herr Hitler and generals (some reluctant, but going along) used the drier, firm-grounded weather of early May 1940 for an invasion of Western Europe, which the Fuhrer had called off more than 20 times during the cold winter of ‘39-‘40, when even the Channel froze at Boulogne. (That year, too, spring was earned.)
The lightning invasion by Nazi tanks and aircraft in a suddenly fine season made short work of the Dutch and Belgians, and more astonishingly, the French, leaving Britain to fight alone several months later.
In other words, gorgeous spring weather can do only so much to sate the appetites of power-hungry, territory-coveting humans. One novelist noted that beauty is not a human invention. He meant perhaps that what happens in a season like spring, including in earned ones like this year’s, is so awesomely pretty that no lesser species of faults and flaws galore can match it.
But let’s not end on a depressing note. Let’s think of spring as jibing with the better human traits of love and hopeful optimism, and a capacity for beneficial, new-blossoming changes in personal lives.B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.