Meteorologists predict a ‘scorching’ spring

Botticelli’s Primavera: Just one of many masterpieces inspired by the beauty of the season.

This Thursday marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, and experts at the Met Office say it could be one of the warmest on record. But what makes the season so special?

‘Spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,’ wrote D.H. Lawrence in ‘The Enkindled Spring’. He is just one of countless artists who have drawn inspiration from ‘this conflagration / Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth.’

To the delight of many, this week will see the eagerly-awaited vernal equinox, which marks the arrival of spring. Meteorologists predict three months of ‘scorching’ weather in the run up to summer. After Britain drowned in its wettest January, many are relieved to hear this could be the driest March on record. It is the favourite season for many, but what makes it special?

In ages before modern food storage, just having enough food to last the winter could determine survival, so the return of life and crops in spring had added significance. Numerous cultures believed the season was divine. Ancient Greeks honoured Aphrodite, goddess of love and procreation, and the Romans had Flora, goddess of spring. The season also brings with it celebrations for Easter and the Jewish Passover.

This time of new life and fertility resonates with artists such as the Romantic poets because both art and spring involve bringing beauty into existence. Ovid imagines the world’s perfect Golden Age, as an ‘Eternal Spring’, and Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims begin their journey in April because it’s a time that represents spiritual rebirth.

And there is also a biological explanation for our love of spring. Biologists explain that we gain three more daylight hours after the winter months and this makes the body produce serotonin, which is linked to good moods. The sun provides a much needed perk to those suffering from SAD and gives us more vitamin D, vital for boosting immune systems.

Yet not everyone shares in this ‘spring fever’. Psychologists report that the season sees a peak in suicides and hospital admissions for depression. One explanation is that spring gives us high hopes for change but then disappointment when our lives do not improve. As the speaker in Lawrence’s poem goes on to say, in the midst of spring’s new life, he is ‘a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.’

Springing a trap

Many point to the fields teeming with new life, bathed in light and pregnant with hope, and ask: what is not to love about spring? With so many seasonal festivities and budding natural beauty, it encompasses all that is best about being alive.

But for others, hay fever sufferers especially, autumn offers far more. It is a time for nostalgia and collecting the fruits of the harvest, when the invigorating chill gives us an appreciation for being inside and keeping cosy and warm. While much life starts in spring, many prefer the time when ‘the berry’s cheek is plumper.’

You Decide

  1. Which season inspires you the most?
  2. Are we less attuned to the changing of the seasons compared with previous generations?

Activities

  1. Write a poem in praise of your favourite season. Present it to the class.
  2. Using the links in ‘Become an Expert’, list six positive and negative psychological effects of spring.

Some People Say...

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.’Pablo Neruda”

What do you think?

Q & A

Does it make sense to have a favourite season?
Certain times of year can conjure different memories for people; for some, spring reminds them of being carefree as a child, whereas for others, the winter months give them a greater appreciation of being warm and indoors. It is what we associate the seasons with, as much as the actual weather, which makes us like certain seasons more than others.
How does the British spring compare with other countries this year?
So far this March Britain has had temperatures higher than Greece and the Mediterranean, and for the next week or so experts expect temperatures to stay around a warm 17ºC. That we are having a dry March so far is also very good news for much of the country, where water levels remain high under the ground’s surface after the winter floods.

Word Watch

Equinox
Two days of the year when the day and night are almost equal. In Latin, ‘equi’ means ‘equal’ and ‘nox’, ‘night’.
Romantic
Romanticism took great inspiration from the power of nature. Wordsworth and Keats stand out as poets with particular affinities for natural landscapes.
Golden Age
In his great poem on change, ‘Metamorphoses’, Ovid writes of the Golden Age as a time before fighting broke out between the ancient gods.
Pilgrims
A pilgrimage was a journey to a religious site which was supposed to bring pilgrims spiritual enlightenment, yet many of Chaucer’s pilgrims are more interested in having fun along the way.
Serotonin
Serotonin helps to transmit chemical messages in the brain, though its exact workings are still not well understood.
SAD
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression thought to be brought on by a lack of sunlight.
Plumper
From the poem ‘LXXIX’ by 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson.

Subjects

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