Here in Tennessee the tulip trees and daffodils were in full bloom weeks ago, but even their early arrival this year was not so very early for flowers that always usher in the springtime. The weather was far too warm, but Facebook’s “On This Day” feature kept throwing out pictures of tulip trees and daffodils from years past, and I was startled to be reminded that these flowers often bloom during February—and are often killed by frost or snow when they do. Studying Facebook memories, it was easy to let myself hope that perhaps the world was not spinning quite so far off its axis after all.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers no such reassurances. Last month the earth’s surface was warmer than it has ever been in February, a record it snatched from February 2016. Last month’s average temperature was also the most extravagant variation from February temperature norms since the U.S. began tracking weather patterns back in the nineteenth century—and February marked the tenth straight month for such temperature anomalies, too.
No wonder the star magnolia opened its pale perfections five weeks early this year. No wonder the dogwood, traditionally an Easter flower, was putting out buds well before Ash Wednesday.
I spent February in a vague state of conflicted worry: grateful for the balmy days but steeled for the apocalypse that would surely follow. The force that through the green fuse drives the flower had run amok, and my worries ran in both directions—I feared winter would come roaring back and blast every lovely thing in my yard, and I feared the cold would not return in time to save an already overwrought planet.
Now it is March, and spring appears to have launched itself in earnest, with no concern for my worries or for scientific data. The yard is full of violets and spring beauties. The chickadees are quarreling over the nestbox under the eaves, and the bluebird who for weeks now has been inspecting the box on the other side of the house arrived today with a mate. He stood on top of the box, keeping watch in every direction, while she flew in and out, considering her options.