On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

Spring — the season

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “spring” has an abundance of meanings. As a verb, it can mean to “move rapidly or suddenly from a constrained position”, to “appear suddenly or unexpectedly from”, to “become warped or split”, and “informal pay for, especially as a treat for someone else”. As a noun, it can be “a resilient device, typically a helical metal coil, that be pressed or pulled but returns to its former shape when released”, “a sudden jump upward or forward”, “a place where water or oil wells up from an underground source, or the basin or flow formed in such a way”, and “an upward curvature of a ship’s deck planking from the horizontal”. However, it is the other noun definition upon which we want to focus today: “the season after winter and before summer, in which vegetation begins to appear, in the northern hemisphere from March to May and in the southern hemisphere from September to November”.

Being in the northern hemisphere, ourselves, we experienced the beginning of the season of spring as of 8:33 AM PDT on March 20 of this year. (In the southern hemisphere, spring will begin at 6:03 PM PDT on September 22 of this year — the moment that we, here in the north, begin to experience autumn.)

But, how about the name of the season, “spring”? Why is it called that? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name “spring” (a noun) comes from the verb “spring”. The verb derives from the Old English springan, meaning “to leap, burst forth, fly up, spread, grow”. It is not surprising, then, that the name of the “season following winter, first of the four seasons of the year; the season in which plants begin to rise” should take on the verb as its noun name. The season’s name suggests “…a special sense of an…’act or time of springing or appearing; the first appearance; the beginning, birth, rise, or origin’ of anything. “The notion is of the ‘spring of the year,’ when plants begin to rise and trees to bud”.

A website titled “Mental Floss” lists 15 scientific reasons Spring is the most delightful season:

  1. temperatures are moderate;
  2. there is more daylight;
  3. the birds return;
  4. there are baby animals everywhere;
  5. you’re safer;
  6. you can go outside;
  7. it makes you more creative;
  8. the leaves come back;
  9. growing plants absorb carbon dioxide;
  10. it’s easy to find fresh produce;
  11. flowers are in bloom;
  12. you can take your exercise routine outdoors;
  13. you don’t have to worry about dry air;
  14. you can open your windows; and,
  15. you can get your vitamins naturally.

Oh, and just in case you’re planning ahead, the season of spring this year, in the northern hemisphere, will end at 2:13 AM PDT on June 21.

“Spring” books in the Downieville Library

There are a few books in the library that engage with the idea of spring — in one way or another. Here they are:

The Beginning of Spring, by Penelope Fitzgerald (fiction)

First Day of Spring, by Sharon Gordon (easy reader)

Fisherman’s Spring, by Roderick L. Haig-Brown (non-fiction)

Spring Wildflowers of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Helen K. Sharsmith (non-fiction)

Mouse’s First Spring, by Lauren Thompson (easy reader)

The Gales of Spring: Thomas Jefferson, the Years 1789-1801, by Leonard Wibberly (biography)

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