First days of spring

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been at his desk recently, doing some mathematical calculations. He has a hopeful message: spring is almost here!

(Lange) Only a fool would be optimistic enough to think winter’s over. It may be aging, but it has a few good rounds left in it yet. Still, nothing wintry that happens from here on will last very long. And I’ve passed a couple of sugar houses with the buckets piled outside, ready to go.

I’ve calculated how far the sun advances each day, on average, from the winter solstice till the summer solstice. Check this and see if I’m right:

The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are 23.5 degrees north and south of the Equator — 47 degrees apart. That arc is 13 per cent of the 360 degrees of the earth’s circumference. Right? The circumference of the earth is 24,860 miles measured around the meridians; 13 per cent of that is 3245 miles.

From the winter to the summer solstice is about 182 days. So divide 3245 miles by that, and you’ve got the sun appearing to advance northward by about 18 miles a day. In four weeks, at the vernal equinox, it’ll be directly over the Equator, and everybody on the earth will have exactly the same amount of daylight. Three months later it’ll be directly over the Tropic of Cancer. The hottest weather will come along five weeks later, in mid-July.

You see how it goes. Even the seasons that seem endless here pass before we know it. The skaters get half a dozen near-perfect days on the ice; the skiers the same on snow. The sugar makers pray for cold nights and warm days, and the hay makers for spring rain and early summer sunshine. House-painters, excavators, and roofers squeeze in their performances during short seasons and favorable weather. Even the wood splitters have only from the worst of the mud till the worst of the flies, to top off and cover their long, stately ranks of next winter’s heat.

The trees, which we picture as leafy, are green for only five months; for seven months they stand bare and waiting. The garden is most often bare and brown or a featureless field of snow. At the moment even the arbor is practically buried, and the frog ponds and the tiny peepers, huddle at the bottom, waiting for spring.

But if I lift my eyes from my calculations, there’s a pair of Winslow Homer prints of men in boats; a Remington of four Indians in a bark canoe; and a photograph of a canoe in the salt water of the Northwest Passage. At my elbow there’s a map of the river we’re going to canoe this year. And out in the shed are a pair of canoes with only seven weeks to wait till trout season.

The seasons are just the right length as they are. The only one I might wish a little shorter is the mosquito and black fly season.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.

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