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Out of the Blue

Climate Confusion

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring, summer, fall

By Deborah Salomon

Climate change is a phrase fraught with enigma. Is the change beneficial? Difficult? Misinterpreted? Catastrophic? Earth Day, another relatively recent concept celebrates . . . what? Is it the “good earth” or an Earth dying under the blistering sun, washed away by powerful floodwaters?

The seasons have jumbled, with buds appearing during a January warm spell, then blown off the branches by an “unseasonable” winter hurricane.


What’s also unsettling is that the last two generations — be they called X, Y or Z — have mixed memories of anticipating, or dreading, seasonal benchmarks.

Spring makes me want to remember, before the icons become a mirage.

Spring brings joy for itself, also for winter’s end. I grew up in damp, cold New York City, where children wore scratchy woolen leggings or cumbersome snowsuits because we walked to the park, or at least the subway station. No dashing from the front door to a waiting SUV that had been pre-warmed remotely. Hats with earflaps were de rigueur, as were short-sleeved cotton undershirts. I begged and pleaded to ditch them the first warmish weekend. Nothing doing. Did I want to “catch my death of a cold”? No, but I tingle at the memory of standing close to the fire my Tar Heel granddaddy built in the grate, which toasted my front while my back froze. Gas fireplaces offer no such sensation.

Spring was “just around the corner” when the local bakery filled its counters with shamrock-shaped cookies iced in green. My mother was strict about sweets; I was allowed only one. I can still feel its buttery richness crumbling in my mouth.

After St. Paddy came, in immutable order, crocuses, daffodils, tulips and irises.

Years later, as an adult living in New England, I foraged for fiddlehead ferns, which grew by the swollen streams. You had to catch them just before they unfurled, usually late March. Sautéed in browned butter . . . quintessential spring freshness. I even put them on pizza.

Longer days meant spring asparagus, which I hated as a child, adored as an adult.

Finally, I was allowed to shed the undershirt, run outside to welcome the Good Humor ice cream truck, which commenced its rounds when school ended. No oratorio, no symphony rivaled its bells as the truck turned the corner, bringing raspberry popsicles called I-Sticks and bittersweet chocolate sundaes. June meant big, dark purple Bing cherries from Washington State. Chilean cherries, now “in season” in November, disrupt, as do seedless green grapes, my circadian-like rhythm of produce.

Catching lightnin’ bugs in Mason jars and spitting watermelon seeds represented the best of summer. The worst was staying home to avoid polio. Thanks, Dr. Salk, for giving summer back to children.

Daffodils may be my favorite flower but autumn, not spring, is my favorite season. Toast it with apple cider, fresh from a cider mill that emits a fragrance unrivaled by French perfume. Not even Dom Perignon goes down easier. No technology rivals a yellow oak or crimson maple. Maybe the azure Caribbean, but that’s far from the front yard. Please, Mother Nature, don’t take autumn. Bad enough that Sept. 11, 2001, is also remembered for perfect weather — cool, crisp, dry, blinding sunshine. Please leave us the chilly starry nights and chrysanthemums. And football.

Football isn’t my favorite sport but for two glorious autumns my son was the star running back on his high school team. He is gone, but the crystal-clear air and bright leaves remind me. Through the sadness, I smile.

Polar bears don’t burn fossil fuel. The blame for climate change rests with humans. Its acceleration is truly frightening. I’m worried that when billions of cicadas emerge from the ground in a few weeks they will look around and burrow back down, like animals running for higher ground after sensing an approaching tsunami. 

Just don’t whine we weren’t warned. Instead, bid farewell to fiddleheads, maple syrup, clover honey, daffodils, dogwood, strawberries, dandelions, hummingbirds, snowflakes, ducklings, apple cider and a thousand other simple pleasures brought forth from and supported by the good earth. Because like the woolly mammoth, once gone, never will they return.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at