The shift in weather that multiplies the signs of spring takes place within a week of Cross Quarter Day, the day on which the sun reaches halfway to spring equinox, February 18th.
Three or four good thaws, sometimes lasting a week apiece, have already come up from the south before then. Bulbs made progress during each of them, foliage rising ever so slowly though the soft ground.
Cardinals not only sing before dawn, but deep into the afternoon. Peonies sometimes come up through the mulch by the 21st of February, their bright tips emerging at the arrival of red-winged blackbirds, robins and bluebirds, when blue jays start calling, and when sparrows and starlings are loud and reckless in the middle of mating.
On the other side of Cross Quarter Day, pussy willows open all the way, along with the earliest snowdrops and aconite. The signs accelerate, accumulate, and become the new season itself, turning into what they represent by force of numbers.
Then what at first looks the same as any winter day is really a day in early spring. The wind is still raw, and the grass and the trees are brown; but the balance has tipped anyway. The thaws are preserved, their effects impervious to the steady progression of cold fronts, and winter is decaying headlong, collapsing passively, uninhibitedly, into rebirth.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Early Spring and the final week of the Skunk Courting Moon. In the meantime, look for all the signs, even if the days are cold. When you have enough signs, then you have Early Spring.