“The winter is forbidden ’til December/ And exits March the second on the dot./ By orders summer lingers through September/ in Camelot.”
I doubt that I would be fully happy in the climate-controlled world of Camelot as described by Lerner and Lowe. I enjoy the surprise of an unexpected snow in October or in April. Moreover, I prefer autumn weather to summer heat, so I wouldn’t choose to have summer linger through September.
However, part of my family routine is to mark the change of the seasons by the wreath on our front door. We have a patriotic, red-white-and-blue wreath that goes on the door during Memorial Day weekend and remains until Labor Day weekend. It is then replaced by a wreath with colorful plastic autumn leaves which stay on the door until around the first of December. Our winter wreath has evergreen and pine cones and stays on the door until the second of March. Every second of March, on the dot, the winter wreath is replaced with a spring wreath that has little yellow plastic flowers which match the flowering bush in our front yard.
This change of seasons on our front door runs about three weeks ahead of the calendar change of seasons, the changes which fall on the solstices and equinoxes in December, March, June, and September. In the United States of America the social season of summer traditionally starts with Memorial Day weekend and ends with Labor Day weekend. Both weekends are known for an extra day off of work and often are celebrated with family picnics, cook-outs, and other seasonal outings. By matching the change of seasons on the front door with those social customs, we naturally shift the other two changes to the start of Advent in the Christian Church and to the end of winter in Camelot.
March is said to come in like a lion and to go out like a lamb. I can remember frigid and snowy starts to March, and I can remember Marches that began with thunderstorms and heavy rain. I can also remember warm, sunny, calm beginnings to the month of March. Like other weather traditions, the lion-and-lamb theme is unreliable, but it is fun to remember the tradition and to pretend that it is true.
April showers, they say, bring May flowers, and that tends to be true in New England and in the upper Heartland states. Ask any child what May flowers bring, and the child will either give you a puzzled stare or respond with the correct answer, “Pilgrims.” Migrating birds respond more to the length of the day than to the weather; sometimes they have to deal with ice and snow at their springtime arrival. Onion skins and wooly caterpillars are supposed to indicate the severity of the coming winter, but they also are wrong as often as they are right.
If the weather was entirely predictable, we would have less to discuss with each other. Aside from catastrophic floods, droughts, and winds, the weather is a useful conversation-starter. It also provides enduring memories. I can recall a Christmas with temperatures in the seventies and another Christmas when the temperature remained below zero degrees-they were exactly one year apart. I can remember when the first warm day of spring happened to be Easter Day, and I remember being trapped for hours in traffic during an evening snowfall on Valentines’ Day.
Perhaps Camelot would not have ended in such frightful disputes if the knights and ladies could have spent their time commenting on the unseasonable weather. J.