Russ Allen: Has Spring Really Sprung?

“There is no ‘spring’ on Cape Cod! The weather just stays winter-like well into April or May – then suddenly it’s summer!”

Many Harwich residents, washashores and “true Cape Codders” alike, annually repeat these sentences like a mantra: Their truth often remains unquestioned. However, after almost 12 years living here, I respectfully offer a different opinion: Spring not only exists here, but it may be the best of all the seasons we who are blessed to live on this special peninsula experience.

Now despite the relative pleasant weather of this past February, the four nor'easters we experienced in March, one coming after the first day of spring, can tempt us to believe in that old adage, even though a warmup is predicted as the month of April begins. It has been a hard winter for the residents of the Cape who are not snowbirds, with unusually bitter temperatures in January as well as those storms of March. My fuel oil usage will be greater than for any other year since I moved here, and it will take time just to clean up the mess of twigs and limbs that populate my yard. Nevertheless, none of those factors will change the fact that yes, Virginia, there is a spring season on Cape Cod.

Addressing that aftermath reveals one of the benefits of spring: The opportunity and reason to get out of our houses in order to clean up our yards and prepare our gardens for another growing season. My snowdrops started to blossom even before the March storms arrived, my bulbs are sprouting, and buds on the forsythia bushes in my yard are ready to open. I am not a gardener, but I love to garden, adding new and relocating existing plants and watching the flowers bloom, activities that mostly require spring to happen.

However, there are other aspects of this season that I highly value. It is the time of year when Holy Week and the Easter season as well as Passover occur, both the Major and Cape Cod Baseball League seasons start, Patriots’ Day is celebrated and the Boston Marathon is run, Mothers and fathers are celebrated, and we honor those who died in the service of our nation. Spring is when our children and grandchildren graduate from their schools, from kindergarten to college, and often get married, even as many of us celebrate our own wedding anniversaries. True, for some spring means filing their income tax returns, though it may also be when they benefit from any anticipated refunds.

Spring is when Cape Cod reopens and, given the absence of the crowds that will visit here during summer and into the fall, enjoying its natural, recreational entertainment and cultural assets is easier for we who live here. However, this is also the season for serious work as members of the Harwich and other Cape communities through our attendance at town meeting and participation in town elections. Harwich faces a number of very challenging issues related to our educational, environmental, economic and political systems. Our town stands on a “Continental Divide” (or on a teeter-totter) between the crowded and urban portion of the Cape from Dennis westward and the rural, traditional, and the less populated portion east and north to Provincetown. In terms of the town’s continuing overdevelopment and its deficit in affordable and acceptable housing, its need for a stable and dependable economy, the adequate maintenance and repair of town facilities, and an ever increasing demand for services, especially for the elderly, it can seem that the battle is being won by the pressures applied from our west, though many residents who moved here because its lifestyle reflected that of the Cape to our east may wish it otherwise. Among the venues all the residents of Harwich have for determining in which direction the town will go are these two events that occur during the spring season.

Perhaps the most important positive aspect of spring on Cape Cod is that it is not one of the other three seasons. Summer, especially for those who live here, can be crowded, hot, overly busy, frustrating, and demanding, especially if our economic well-being depends on a successful season. There can be years when it rains for days on end or it is too uncomfortably hot to go to the beach, and then there are those nasty hurricanes. Winter, we all know, can be cold, windy, and powerless, with short days and dark nights, capable of what are virtually six-week snowstorms. Fall, which is my runner-up for best season of the year on Cape Cod, can morph into an overly busy, expensive, and ultimately unsatisfying holiday season overshadowed, inevitably, by the looming winter. Given those realities, spring smells like the flowers with which we associate it.

Yes, the last storm did happen after spring began. Yes, it may be take as long to warm up as it will be to clean up. Yes, it may suddenly get warm well before the summer solstice. Nevertheless, considering all that spring is and represents, we all can be thankful that spring has sprung again.