Although the month of February has just begun, signs of spring abound in the forests of Western North Carolina. A few early annuals have germinated. Leaves of some perennials, clinging low to the ground, capture early sunlight. Rhododendrons are extending their new leaves, covered in protective fuzz. Animals are more active. In the neighborhoods of Asheville, the spring torch heather is blooming, one of the first flowers along with the hardy dandelion that was blooming in our yard in January. This is the ever-changing cycle of the seasons at play, as daylight hours increase and the sun moves higher in the skies of our hemisphere. What are the signs of spring that you notice? When did they first arise?
For many around the world, these are the days of the Spring Festival, or in our culture, Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is one of those odd festivals that began in agricultural Europe so that now one groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named Phil determines when people might plant their garden. Either way and wherever you're celebrating, it's time for renewal and this year Phil feels spring will come early.