Saturday: A last late winter day with many signs of spring


Saturday was the last Saturday in astronomical winter, and as we pondered spring, it seemed like we could already see more cherry blossom petals in one day than snowflakes all winter.

Without even thinking about detailed diagrams and analysis, it seemed as if Shakespeare’s “Winter of Our Discontents” plagued mostly those Washingtonians who long for the sight of snow and appreciate the sight of it on our landscape.

Otherwise, the number of petals visible on Saturday might appear somewhat comparable, at least in a symbolic sense, to the relatively few snowflakes observed in Washington this winter.

That’s right, according to the National Park Service, the flowering season is yet to come. But on the other hand, we still have more than half an inch of snow to accumulate and it’s getting late to gather more.

In a way, then, Saturday seemed to mark a major cultural turning point. There was a perhaps slightly blurred line between winter (which began with the December solstice and ended with the Monday equinox) and the full bloom of the fabled blossoms.

For many, this event marks a psychological, if not meteorological, beginning of spring.

Saturday certainly showed a cool side, especially for early risers who could rightly claim to feel winter in our wind-chilled fingertips on outdoor forays.

To give the day its proper place, Saturday flaunted other chilly attributes in the early hours.

Just before 10 a.m., for example, the mercury had not risen above 44 degrees. Looking up, the National Weather Service detected enough gray and white obstacles to sunshine to describe our skies as mostly cloudy.

And as if to emphasize how much of our morning reflected actual wintry conditions, a 22 mph northwest wind blew. The perceived temperature was 37 degrees.

However, a single day is made up of many parts and seems to be more than the mere arithmetic sum of them all. So it seemed possible that the omnipresent brightness of the mid-March sun appeared overhead enough to make a single overwhelming impression.

So did the burgeoning buds on the branches, adding a kind of haze to distant vistas.

The mercury rose to 54 degrees in Washington in the afternoon. That was 2 degrees warmer than the March 18 average.

And in the Tidal Basin, the Park Service tweeted that the “flowers are beginning to show” and are “puffy white.” “Next stop,” said the valet, “is high bloom!” And for many of us, spring!


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