James Pinsky: New Year’s Day is a lie

James Pinsky

In a few days, 2017 will be gone. Forever.

As conservationists, the beginning of a new calendar year comes to us when Mother Nature has firmly tucked Americans into a cold winter’s sleep. Most of nature, us included, slow down or even hibernate as nature resets herself for spring.

Now there’s something to celebrate!

Forget Time Square’s iconic ball drop, new year resolutions and other cold-weather shenanigans. New Year’s Eve might be the start of a new desk calendar, but weather-wise, my new year won’t begin until I start to see Mother Nature throw the greatest new beginning party of them all – spring! After all, the rest of the planet ignores our petty New Year’s Day human celebrations because … ecologically there’s nothing new about it. Our parties are actually pretty rude and very much like standing up in the middle of a good movie in a theater and yelling, “the end” and leaving. This may explain why squirrels, birds, deer and foxes all cock their heads when we whoop it up on “New Year’s Day.”

I say, spring is when we ought to make our New Year’s Day resolutions, throw world-wide parties, and eat black-eyed peas. Scratch that, any day is a good day to eat black-eyed peas. Now, I know spring happens at different times of the calendar year based on the positon of the planet so we’d have to throw two parties a year to properly celebrate Mother Nature’s new beginnings, but what’s wrong with two parties? Quite frankly, sometimes I start my new year off with a loud thud and could use an ecological mulligan that a northern and southern hemisphere spring time celebration gives us.

So, what exactly happens during spring? Well, here in North America, which is of course in the northern hemisphere, spring starts roughly on the vernal equinox (March 20) and lasts until the summer solstice (June 21). Down south, no not in Alabama, waaaaay south, like Chile, in the southern hemisphere, the opposite is true. Why? In spring, the Earth’s axis is tilted toward the sun, increasing the number of daylight hours and bringing warmer weather. That’s simple science fact folks. This is why we often get severe weather in the spring because warm air moves up from the south while cold air tried to stand its ground from the north. But, Mother Nature knows what’s up, even without party hats, a wet bar and eardrum piercing renditions of “Auld Lang Syne.” How can we tell? Most of our trees, plants and flowers began to grow, critters toss off their winter wardrobe and go for the sleek and always fashionable new-old spring look, and they have their babies.

Now, I don’t know about you but few things inspire me more than seeing Mother Nature began again after what is usually a cold and nasty winter. Being frozen for weeks if not months and then still miraculously finding a way to bloom lilies, birth cute white-tailed deer fawns and launch pollinators is a lot more impressive than flipping a page on a silly calendar. No, if we really want to start fresh with our lives then maybe we ought to consider joining Mother Nature’s seasonal springtime parties. After all, overcoming a winter in Minnesota or Quebec to begin life all over again is a lot more impressive than watching a giant ball drop in New York City – especially after Dick Clark left us.

So, as the clock strikes midnight on Dec 31 and we usher in the hopeful 2018, please do so with care. Mother Nature is still sleeping, and if we are going to be obnoxious enough to leave in the middle of her movie, the least we can do is whisper.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540-465-2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.