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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of radio stations.

The Lion And The Lamb Of Spring

Guillaume Galtier

I know what March is like. I remember one night last year when the March lion roared with vigor, flexing her muscle and exhibiting her power as the wind hurtled down the ridge. The next morning she was sitting satisfied on the mountain, licking her paws, letting the rain fall thickly, watching the snow deepen on the ski trails.

The lamb had been around earlier in the month, several times, bringing to the valley daffodils, primroses, and pink blossoming trees; to the woods fawn lilies, shooting stars, and hound’s tongue; everywhere sunshine, warm temperatures and blue skies, only to be chased away by the lion again and again.

"If the sky is pink, better think." - Diana Coogle

I think he was hiding in the trees at the edge of the pasture, shivering with cold, the morning after the vigorous wind. He had to gather his strength if he were going to usher March out.

But maybe I shouldn’t put too much faith in the wise sayings of old. It’s true that March came in like a lion last year, but that’s no guarantee for this year, or that the lion won’t see March out as well as in. There’s no more assurance that March will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb than that a groundhog’s shadow on February 2 means there will be six more weeks of winter. How can we believe the saying, anyway, since Alaska will surely have more than six weeks of winter, whether February 2 is a clear day or not, and spring in Pennsylvania, where the saying originated, surely comes later than it does in Georgia?

“Red sky at night: sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning: sailors take warning” is a proverb I pay attention to, and, apparently, there’s some truth to it, as meteorologists explain with details too complex to go into here. However, on a camping trip long ago, when I was still naïve about backpacking and about weather, too, I guess, as I had depended on Oregon’s fair summer weather and hadn’t packed a tent, I looked at a pink evening sky, repeated the proverb, and went to sleep in the open air instead of setting up a tarp for shelter. Later that night I woke up with a light rain pelting my face. At that point I added a verse to the proverb: “If the sky is pink, better think.”

The new moon in the old moon’s arms is supposed to indicate fair weather, a conclusion easy to understand, since visibility is good when there are no clouds or fog, whether we’re looking across the mountains or into the sky. My delight in seeing this phenomenon doesn’t have anything to do with knowing the weather will be fair tomorrow but because that shimmering silver crescent with the thin rim of light around the black bulb that is the moon is so beautiful. The astronomers tell us we are seeing the dark part of the moon, but what I am seeing is the new moon in the old moon’s arms.

The lion of winter will come as she will; then she will leave and let the lamb have the day. I have known years when I’m building a fire in the stove in June. Snow on Easter Day is not unusual in southern Oregon. A long, wet spring might sound dreary, but foul weather is beautiful when we know it’s helping a 50-percent-less-than-normal rainfall catch up to normal. And, inevitably, the lamb will chase the lion away. Spring always comes.

Diana Coogle has lived in the mountains above the Applegate River for 45 years.