The idea is to return from the tropics in time to watch spring happen in New England. This year we could have waited another few weeks. Oh yes, the redwings are back and the skunk cabbages have tripped across the stage, but those things are not so much the beginning of spring as they are the close parentheses of winter.
So here I am, with heavy jacket and scarf replacing shorts and bare feet, walking the path in a freezing rain, wondering where the hell are the Canada mayflowers and spring peepers.
What a difference 20 percent makes! This time of the year, about 20 percent less solar energy falls on a square meter of New England than on the same size patch of land in Exuma. The Earth is tipping its north polar cap sunward, begging for warmth. The ground is brown and soggy and bare. But surely something is stirring in the soil -- those green silks the old magician has up his sleeves.
One thing follows another. No mourning cloak butterflies until sap is flowing at broken twigs. No spider webs until there are winged insects to snare. No caterpillars until there are young leaves to feed on. No nestlings in the robin's nest until the first big hatch of insect grubs.
One thing follows another. I pull my stocking cap down on my brow and wait.