Spring cannot be found through the wisdom of a groundhog, a creature that lives in the cold, dark, stale air of a hidden lair. To find hope of winter's passing, we must look beyond feet caked with cinder-stained slush and roadside sand. Hope is above in the sunlight, the blossoms of trees and the voices of birds. Creatures of flight bring us the renewed sounds of spring's refreshing warmth and beauty.
In a few weeks, like the return of the swallows to Capistrano, Missourian readers will call and meticulously explain the sighting of a robin - the universal indication spring has arrived. Wednesday, we received a preview as birds rejoiced with song, something a rodent could never do.
Besides, no one ever calls to boast about seeing the first groundhog of spring.
- Missourian staff
Spring-like weather breathed life into the streets of Columbia. Patrons shed winter coats and rolled up sleeves to stroll along sidewalks covered with snow only a few days before. Water flowed into gutters. The last chunks of ice disappeared.
Joggers bounced along wearing short sleeve shirts and shorts, no longer armored in heavy sweats. People on stoops and corners, talking, sitting, felt the cool breeze that was refreshing and not a bitter cold and numbing gale.
Buildings were alive with noise flowing from windows recently cracked. Last week, cars skidded and sputtered in the slush, ice and snow. Wednesday, they cruised past and drivers stuck their elbows out the windows.
The trees may not have leaves, but birds on bare branches sing a song that reminds us of fairer days ahead. Will the days of rejuvenation continue; is this spring? Only time will tell.
-Arthur Wedler, Missourian staff writer
The birds are singing about what the groundhog missed: For the moment, more weeks of winter have been eclipsed by the sunshine. At least for now.
Missourians know that the weather here is temperamental. While it may hit 60 today, it could snow in April. But like the birds, there is an internal sense of carpe diem in us all; we want to make the best of a beautiful day. When the birds sing, we want to sing and play in our own way too - whether it's taking a stroll downtown or going for a run on the MKT - until the cold weather keeps us in.
- Daniela Velazquez, Missourian staff writer
I heard some singing on Saturday when I decided to stroll through downtown because it was ridiculously wonderful outside. Voices in my head, I said. There is no way any bird in its right mind would come home before the end of February.
Wednesday morning, there it was again. Singing. It must be the squirrels, I said. After trying to walk those slippery sidewalks for the past few weeks, the squirrels must have lost it. I know I did. Still, those squirrels do a pretty good job for a bunch of amateurs!
What if they are birds, someone said? But birds would mean that spring is here. I can finally take my eyes off the sidewalks and direct them at people; my boots get the boot and my jacket gets the back of the closet.
And then I remembered that last night my window was cracked open. Because it was warm. Suddenly I saw the singers. They were birds, not flying squirrels that look like Batman in a cheap suit!
- Cristian Lupsa, Missourian staff writer
As I left my home this morning I felt some guilt for leaving my best friends of two months, my hat and gloves, behind. As they lay at home hidden in my drawer, the sun emerges cool and confident, unhindered by the sharp chilly winds. The sun sets its place in the sky as I sit on a bench and take a rare moment to stop and appreciate the day.
People seem to stroll the street with a different attitude today. They seem a bit warmer, their smiles a little brighter; the day has inspired a sense of happiness. As I walk down the street, I run into a biker who has ditched his thesis to ride through downtown and enjoy the weather. He dips into a coffee shop before he continues on his journey.
Who can blame him? Wednesday is a reward for our struggle with weeks of ice, snow and cold weather. We should show our appreciation by enjoying it; the birds are.
I really never thought about the birds singing before today. Perhaps the off-key choir that begins practice at 5 every morning outside my window has tainted my judgment. Yet, the melodic tune coming from the trees is unmistakable; the birds are singing in perfect harmony to show their appreciation for the warmth and beauty of the day. Even if spring doesn't start tomorrow, the birds have given it a beautiful introduction.
- Raegan Johnson, Missourian staff writer
Finally, the weather is warming up in central Missouri, giving residents a taste of spring. Temperatures reached the mid-50s Wednesday. "It's a sure sign of spring; it's beautiful, the air smells good and clean; I just love it," said Sylvia Roys, a retired Columbia resident.
Roys spent the early afternoon walking around the track at MU. "We weren't the only ones that were happy," Roys said, referring to the birds chirping their thanks to Mother Nature.
John Faaborg, a professor of biological sciences at MU, said the birds are rejoicing for the same reason the coats are being put away. "It is a beautiful day and they know it," he said.
There is a further explanation. "Birds begin breeding soon, and they set up their territory very early, usually around Feb. 1, but it has been too cold, so they are excited," Faaborg said.
The purpose of boy birds announcing control of their territory is to attract the girl birds and to tell other boys to stay away.
Birds and people, people and birds - it's all the same when it comes to spring.
- Mike Deering, Missourian staff writer