Ah, the front-yard signs of odd-numbered springs

I see it in my puppy’s muddy paw prints.

I see it in people putting away their snowblowers for the season (perhaps unwisely early).

It was obvious last week when city street sweepers took to the roads and cleared off a winter’s worth of grit.

And it’s that time of year that packs of cyclists begin riding two and three abreast and in big swarms along East Animas Road (County Road 250).

Ah, springtime in Durango.

The signs of spring are everywhere – sprouting up in yards all around town. You must have seen those signs.

Flowers? No. Grass? Nope. I’m talking about those yard signs that say, for example, “Keith” or “Christina.” Funny, those kinds of signs seem to sprout only on odd-numbered years. Ah yes, it’s City Council election time once again.

Before we get too far here, let’s explain why it’s OK to jump the gun and declare that spring’s here.

It’s possible you’re saying to yourself, “Why is this arrogant columnist celebrating spring a week and a half too soon? Just because he writes some front-page schlock he has the right to declare it spring?”

Well, the answer to that might be “yes.” But let’s pretend for a moment that it might be “no.”

Yes, you calendar gazers, it is true. Spring doesn’t begin officially until March 20. At 5:02 a.m. (Slightly off the subject, but another sign of spring: Did you remember to set your clocks forward Sunday morning? If not, then you’re probably late for work. Regardless, it’s important that you finish this column first.)

But, in my mind, spring began Friday, March 1, when I woke up, and it wasn’t 8 degrees outside. In the next two days, the high temperature jumped by 23 degrees.

The big thaw had begun.

For those of us who battle glacier-sized ice dams on the roof every winter, for those whose credit cards are worn to the black stripe from scraping ice off windshields, this is reason to celebrate.

Of course, this also means that mud season is here. My fidgeting puppy’s feet must be cleaned before she enters the house. Two by two, my shoes and boots all are becoming unsuitable for inside use.

The beginning of spring in Southwest Colorado, in all honesty, is the most frustrating time of year. Yeah, it’s getting warmer and the sun spends more time with us every day, but stiff breezes bring a deep chill and still-soft trails around town are mostly unusable.

It’s not a joke that spring is actually the time of the highest suicide rate. One theory is that those with severe depression watch as others around them celebrate the arrival of warmer and longer days, while they remain in a dark funk. A quick public service announcement here: Please try to help anyone who seems to be depressed, or make sure they get help.

Anyway, it feels like spring to me, but if you must wait until March 20 to celebrate, then by all means do so.

I understand, because I’m a sky geek. Pardon me, please, while I turn this into an astronomy column. Hey, it’s not my fault this is such fascinating stuff.

At 5:02 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, on March 20, 2013, the Earth will be in that sweet spot in its rotation where every patch of the planet gets sun for half the day. Or so it goes. In reality, because light bends and because the sun isn’t just a point in the sky, we get more than 12 hours of sunlight that day.

Are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-drunk kind of person? Whatever you answered, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to sunrise and sunset, we all get a glass that’s more than half full. I’ll say it again: On the “equinox,” the sun is above the horizon for more than 12 hours. If you don’t believe me, or don’t understand why, then Google “equinox not equal” and see what you find.

The truth is that we get 12 hours of sunlight a few days before that. At the 35th parallel (we’re at 37 degrees 16 minutes, but let’s not quibble), the day of equal amounts of sun and darkness this year is March 16.

If you live in Honolulu, that date is March 14.

And get this: If you live on the equator, every day of the year you get more than 12 hours of sun. I’m not making this up. Every day!

So, you define spring however you like. Despite last weekend’s chill, winter has lost its death grip.

What can I say? I recognize the signs of spring. And I recognize the signs of odd-numbered-year springs. Which means that if I’m going to vote wisely, I’d better figure out who this guy Keith is.

johnp@durangoherald.com. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story