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Penkava: Living life in Spring Delay Mode

It’s not like I hate winter. In fact, if it wasn’t for winter, I would have never discovered the potential of the frozen Fox River when combined with a pair of skates, a hockey stick and a puck. Yep, without winter I would have missed out on the glory of deftly stickhandling across the icy surface and slapping in the winning goal … not to mention the stitches in the forehead and countless shin bruises.

But as much as I enjoyed the blessings of winter, the promise of spring held for me a natural change of pace, from cold steel on ice to the smack of a ball against the gently oiled leather of a Nellie Fox baseball mitt. Spring would yield to summer as baseball thrived and soda pop refreshed, followed by the gentle transition to fall and football and pumpkin pie.

The changes of the seasons became to me like a secure and soothing hand leading me through the years, guiding me from one way of life to another. From warm to hot to cool to cold and back again to warm, it was as if my very existence was determined by the temperature, and as long as I could depend upon the coming and going of the seasons, my life had order and security.

But lately I’m starting to worry. Smooth seasonal transition has given way to dysfunctional weather patterns. Now we can go from winter to summer, skipping an entire spring season. We can move from summer to winter, wondering what happened to fall. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if soon we will be reduced to just two seasons, called “Sprummer” and “Finter.”

I really don’t know what’s behind all of this. Some scientists think we’re moving down the path of global warming. Others argue that the Ice Man Cometh, bringing with him chilling possibilities. I’m not a weather expert, but my theory is that maybe what we are experiencing are simply normal cyclic climactic weather fluctuations caused by stationary fronts with abnormally broad temperature gradients that trigger widely spaced isobar lines … ergo, goofy weather.

Be that as it may, they say that March 21 is the first day of spring, and here we are about 20 days later. Sure, we’ve had a few pretty nice days where the temperature has crept into the 50s. and we’ve finally even flirted with 60 degrees, but a 70-degree day may not be due until sometime in May. For those of us who back in November set our sights on the middle of March as the “If I can survive until then, I’ll be fine” target goal, this Spring Delay Mode is starting to be as stale as a leftover piece of a bacon/fried egg/cheeseburger pizza that’s been sitting lost in the fridge since the Super Bowl.

Being the assistant apprentice to the master gardener, I am poised for action with my True Temper 1.25-cubic-foot wheelbarrow, my Kodiak 16-Tined Forged Thatching Rake, and my Fiskars Ultra Light Gardener Kneepads. My wife sits alongside a 3-foot stack of seed and garden supply magazines as she diagrams this year’s beds in her Gardener’s Paradise Journal. We are as ready for spring as a bumblebee is for the nectar of an alcea rugosa.

So maybe we are experiencing a longer Frinter than expected. Perhaps a delayed Sprummer is in the long-range forecast. That being the case, we have no recourse but to be patient and accept whatever the wind blows our way, along with whatever those stinkin’ isobar thingies decide to do.

As for me, I’m not putting away my skates and hockey stick just yet. Maybe I can still plant a few more pucks into the goal. At least until spring is really here to stay. Which this year may not be until fall.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He is enjoying the lingering Frinter as best he can as he practices wheel barrowing on the driveway wearing his snappy new kneepads. He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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