Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Everybody talks about the weather . . .

. . . so I will too.

It's four days past the vernal equinox (better known as the first day of spring), but you couldn't tell by looking out the window. It's below freezing, and a howling north wind has got the wind chill factor down in the teens. The only positive aspect is that the sun is riding high in a hard, cloudless blue sky, and this time of year she's up there for a good twelve hours, which is four more than we got three months ago around the winter solstice. Despite the north wind, energy is splashing across the trees, buildings, streets, and open spaces of Newport from that thermonuclear generator sitting in the sky.

In his autobiography, Isaac Asimov tells a story about the first day of spring back in 1958. He had agreed to speak at the convocation at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, arriving the evening before. It was snowing as Asimov arrived at the college, but he wasn't worried, because the weather forecast called for only a couple of inches. The next morning, the first day of spring, he woke up to find over a foot of snow on the ground; very wet, very heavy snow. When he reached the convocation hall he was warned by the school's vice president that since attendance at the convocation was compulsory, some students made a point of ostentatiously ignoring the proceedings by reading newspapers during the speaker's talk. Faced with a large audience that had been forced to trudge through masses of wet snow to attend, there was only one thing for Asimov to do, and he did it:

I began with a stirring encomium on spring, the rebirth of nature, the season green and perfumed, the epitome of hope, the welcome release from winter's icy grip -- making the whole thing more and more lyrical until I greeted the coming of the vernal equinox that day in a veritable Everest of floral gush.

Asimov's audience found his ironic introduction enjoyable, and he had no trouble maintaining their interest during the rest of his talk.

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