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Spring is in the air and signs are everywhere

It’s here!

Oh, all right. I know it isn’t really — officially — here, if you want to believe what the calendar tells you. But, I still feellike spring has arrived.

The signs of the season are everywhere, after all. Daffodils and hyacinths are sprouting through the soil in my flower bed. Each morning now, all sorts of birds can be heard chirping and creating a clamor outside mybedroom window. I’ve spotted rabbits and squirrels exploring the neighborhood, probably looking for a nice mate to settle down with and raise a family.

On Thursday, my friend Anne Bartels sent me a photo that I consider to be proof that spring is here. It showed crocuses in full bloom on the front lawn of Richard Thompson, a former mayor of Belmont, and his wife, Connie. The soft purple hue of those blossoms blanketed the ground in front of their Victorian home on Main Street, providing colorful relief from the dull, greenish brown of the grass that has been largely dormant for five months or so.

Anne texted that she thought I could use a positive thought for the day. Her picture certainly did the trick!

I’ve also noticed that it’s not just plants and animals that are showing signs of spring, either. People are changing their behaviors, too, as more sun shines through the clouds, the days gradually get a little longer and the chill begins to subside.

Anne’s niece, Sarah Scott, is one of those people. Already, she has been working outdoors, putting her hedge trimmers to work shaping up the shrubs that stand between her home and ours. I have heard plenty of evidence of other folks performing similar chores, with lawnmowers and chain saws whirring in the distance from time to time.

At the Ohio Valley Mall and on the streets in Martins Ferry, Bellaire and Wheeling, I have seen people coming and going from shops and restaurants who weren’t wearing coats. I’ve even noticed a handful of people wearing shorts, though I think that fashion choice may be a bit premature. Still, it seems that people are eager for spring and are trying to will it to arrive by dressing for warmer weather.

The stores are prepared for the season as well. Garden centers are sporting large stacks of soil, fertilizer and mulch. Department store aisles are populated with kiosks covered in seed packets. And everywhere I look while out shopping I see spring- and Easter-themed items of decor, clothing, food and more.

I realize that we have experienced a very mild winter and that many people in other parts of the country would say we have nothing to complain about. But perhaps that is exactly why I am so tired of winter this year. It was as if our outdoor atmosphere changed to the dull, gray/brown of late fall in October and November and never progressed from there. We had very little snow and very few days when temperatures were truly frigid.

Instead, the temps remained perpetually just cool enough to be uncomfortable. The sky rarely displayed that bright, crisp blue that so often follows a big snowfall. And the ground, never really getting truly frozen, remained muddy and messy for weeks on end.

We still have more than a week to go before the actual first day of spring, even though the vernal equinox will occur earlier this year than it has in more than a century. March 19 is the official first day of spring; it usually falls on March 20 or 21. Spring has not arrived so early since 1896.

The word “equinox” comes from the Latin for “equal night.” According to almanac.com, that means that on March 19, the length of the day and night will be roughly equal. The date marks the point on the calendar when the sun moves from south to north across the imaginary line known as the “celestial equator.” From that point on, the Northern Hemisphere will tilt toward the sun, giving us longer days and shorter nights until the planet begins to tilt back again in June.

For centuries, humans have celebrated concepts such as renewal and rebirth during the spring. The reasons seem obvious — birds return to the sky as they migrate north, worms wriggle out of the ground again, and trees form buds and sprout new leaves and flowers.

Evidence that the spring equinox was important to our ancestors can be found all around the globe. Ancient sites such as Chichen Itza in Mexico include buildings and temples that act in harmony with the sun on this significant occasion. A Mayan pyramid built around 1000 A.D., for example, reacts with the sunlight. On the equinox, the light appears to project a huge snake slithering down the steps of the structure, an illusion the Mayans called “the return of the Sun Serpent.”

There are many other prehistoric structures in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world that align with the rising sun on the vernal equinox and other celestially significant dates. In many cases, a beam of light enters a structure and illuminates it, or the sun rises to the pinnacle of a tower or other feature of these structures.

So, it appears that we are programmed to long for the start of spring. We naturally want to get back outdoors and feel the sun on our skin (even though overexposure to UV rays can be dangerous).

I, for one, feel compelled to work the soil. Every year, I want to grow things, whether they be flowers, trees, shrubs or vegetables. I love the feel and smell of freshly turned soil, and there’s something special about coaxing plants to take roots and grow and change over a period of several weeks or months.

The sunny skies over our region on Saturday made me eager to do all sorts of things. I feel ready to rake and dispose of the autumn leaves that blew into my yard between December and March. I would love to spend some time picking up the litter that other people tossed along roadsides around my community. I hope to put a fresh coat of paint on my porch. And I can hardly wait to begin planting my garden.

The forecast for today calls for more sunshine and temperatures of 60 degrees or more. I plan to take advantage of those mild conditions and spend some time outdoors. If you still have the winter blahs today, try just stepping outside. The spring-like conditions might just lift your spirits and inspire you to feel better.

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