More Notes on Spring!

My Lab, Kiri, enjoying a spring outing on the Madison River – from a few years ago.

Spring, the astronomical spring, that is, happened on Sunday at 9:33 a.m., MDT. The Vernal Equinox marks when the earth’s tilt changes, while on its trip around the sun, so that in the coming three months we’ll go from days of roughly equal daylight and darkness to our longest days of the year in June, with June 21 the date of the Summer Solstice.

 As the days lengthen, we can see almost daily changes as things begin to grow.

 I found my first garlic sprouts in my garden—a flower bed next to the house—on March 1. Then a week later another winter storm came through with several days of subzero temperatures. After it quit snowing, I threw snow on top of the garlic bed to insulate it from the worst of the cold. Still, I was concerned that those tender shoots might have frozen out. Not to worry. I inspected things after the snow melted and about a dozen new shoots had emerged from the straw and leaf mulch. Almost daily I can go out and spot some more new shoots.

 On the other hand, my tulips hadn’t come up yet, though their spot is shaded by lilac bushes, so the ground doesn’t warm as quickly.

As of last week, I hadn’t heard or seen any robins, but I’m betting that they’ll be back by the time you’re reading this.

Update: since writing the above two paragraphs, my tulips have emerged and our first robins showed up yesterday.

Also, as of last week, I hadn’t been out flyfishing yet, but I’m hoping to have that rectified by now. In most years I will have had my first flyfishing outings by now, if not earlier. I tend to not push the season too much. As a friend said a few days ago, he has no urge to be out flyfishing when you have to dunk the rod in the water to melt the ice that has frozen in the guides.

 If the weather doesn’t permit outings on the river, I’ll keep busy. This is also the season for the annual ritual of preparing tax returns. I know many people wait until April 14 or 15 to get with the program, but I normally have things wrapped up and filed by the end of March. I can also remember when tax returns were due on March 15, which gave added meaning to the warning to Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March!”

 As the frost goes out of the ground, it’ll be time to start spring yardwork, raking leaves and dead grass and giving lawn grass a little stimulation to start putting out new growth. It’s also time to prune the apple tree.

 I’d guess that all these things could be summed up as the rites of spring.

That is also on my mind. Our daughter, Erin, plays in the Helena Symphony Orchestra, and on this coming Saturday, March 26, the Helena Symphony will be performing Rite of Spring, the monumental orchestral work by Igor Stravinsky.

It’s actually a ballet, though I suspect most performances over the years have been by an orchestra on stage, without dancers.

While I usually write about the outdoors, classical music is also one of my passions in life and it’s a privilege to be able to be a member of the Butte Symphony Orchestra, though the possibility of our local orchestra playing Rite of Spring is remote. Rite of Spring is usually done only by large professional orchestras. When a Montana orchestra performs Rite of Spring it’s an event.

When Rite of Spring was first performed in Paris, in May 1913, it was truly a memorable event. Some people in the audience loved it and others hated it and some of those disagreements ended up with fist fights. It was one of the most celebrated premieres in musical history.

 The concert will be this coming Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Helena Civic Center. Assuming it isn’t sold out, you can call for tickets at 406-442-1860.

 Hopefully, the sacrifices depicted in the ballet and music will, at least, bring badly needed snow and rain to Montana’s still-parched landscape.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at

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