Editorial: The rites (and wrongs) of spring

20:46, Aug 03 2014

Then there's the old joke about a survey team marking a more precise border between Russia and Poland.

Trudging wearily through hip-deep snow they came upon an old man's cottage right in the middle of the line. they decided among themselves to let him choose to which side they would swing.

"Poland!" he declared, then more quietly confided: "Can't stand these Russian winters ..."

It's a nice wee reminder that man-made rules scarcely trump natural realities.

So let's turn our attention to the recent Your View letter from Lloyd Esler, who raised the interesting idea that we should already have shrugged off our winter mindset.

He's looked around at the emergence of daffodils, pink blossoms and new shoots, at birdlife bestirring itself and evenings lengthening, and suggests we stop denying, at least officially, that we're already in spring.


Nix to the arbitrary rule that spring tidily inhabits the months September, October and November. Esler maintains the real spring started August 1. And that it's not that long because summer kicks in on September 23.

Can such things be? As in all things, we find ourselves looking plaintively to Australia for intelligent guidance.

Turns out that a few years back the chief of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, Tim Entwisle, made headlines suggesting Australia unhook itself from the arbitrary practice, inherited from those colonialist Poms of course, of acknowledging just four seasons of equal length.

They needed more seasons, said he. And look - Aboriginal culture used up to eight.

By his reckoning, the reliably early spring Esler is describing is an unrecognised "sprinter". And before true spring transitions into summer, we'll have a "sprummer". It gets more complicated because different regions would need different numbers of seasons.

We can't help noticing that Entwistle's idea didn't get the sort of widespread support necessary to ring official changes, but by comparison, Esler's idea is more modest.

Or maybe we could content ourselves with the realisation that spring is as much a feeling as anything. In which case, if we can muster the awareness, we're already there.

The Southland Times