Like many natives of Appalachia, every spring, I look for signs of the three Spring “winters” to provide some insight to the unpredictable nature of spring weather.
During this time of year, I find myself scanning the hillsides for blooms indicating that “Red bud Winter”, “Dogwood Winter,” and “Blackberry Winter” will soon arrive. I always keep a few light jackets and sweaters available until these three blooms have made their yearly appearance.
There is no denying the fact that spring is one of the most unpredictable seasons of the four. One day, the weather will be a warm and sunny 80 degrees; perfect for short sleeves and open toed shoes. The next day will send one scrambling for a jacket or sweater as the temperatures plummet back to weather more reminiscent of the winter we had all hoped to leave behind.
Many consider the spring winters as folklore. However, according to an article found on the farmersalmanac.com, these winters are recognized in the weather world as common singularities. The website explains that a weather occurrence is known as a singularity when noticeable fluctuations occur on a yearly basis for at least 50 percent of the time.
The article further states that this practice was common and necessary before calendars were widely available. The article explains that, “Today, we keep track of the passing of the year with a calendar. If you want to know when the last frost of year is likely to be, you can simply look up the date in your Farmers’ Almanac. Our ancestors, though, didn’t have calendars to consult. Instead, they relied on the signs of nature around them.” In this area, I suppose that recognizing the spring winters is more of a tradition; a welcome spring time ritual handed down throughout the generations. “
As a child, I can vividly recall my mother and grandmother pointing out pink blossoms appearing among the mint green buds of early spring during weekly trips made on Fridays as we travelled from Delbarton to “town” (Williamson) to complete errands and purchase groceries. “Look there,” one of them would say from the front seat. “The red buds are in bloom. I bet we have a cold spell coming up.”
Sitting in the back seat with my pale arms braving the first sun rays of the season, it seemed hard to believe. However, the words of my grandmother and mother rang true (as they often do) and within the next day or so, my new spring tee shirts would be hidden behind the sweaters and sweatshirts I had worn throughout the winter.
After that, the weather would again turn warm until the pink and white blossoms of the Dogwood trees would open from the small green buds that housed them along the hillsides and in yards throughout the area ushering in the next cold spell known as “Dogwood Winter.”
I happen to have a couple of Dogwood trees in my own yard and find myself inspecting them daily this time of year when I am out in the yard waiting on my dog to finish her business. Every day this week, I have noticed the green buds opening more with each new day. It seems that “Dogwood Winter” is upon us. I have a feeling that the old adage that March is “in like a lion and out like a lamb” will not hold true this year.
The last of the three spring winters falls around May, just as one is starting to think that cold days are in the past. When I was young, we used to sit on the porch during the evenings when we would be visiting with my grandmother. Across the road from her front porch was a hillside that housed several blackberry bushes. My grandmother would be the first to notice when “Blackberry Winter” was approaching. “You hear those frogs?” my grandmother would ask. “They will be singing through a looking glass soon. The blackberries bushes are out,” she would continue. It always seemed that a heavy frost would be on roof tops and covering the ground right around the time the white blooms dotted the hillside across from my grandmother’s yard.
To me, it doesn’t matter if the spring winters are folklore or a scientific fact. Every spring, as the world around me starts to come back to life after a dull, brown and gray winter; I will look for those three blooms that remind me to not be in a hurry to get those jackets and sweaters tucked away.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)