Flowering magnolia

Once spring decides to arrive in New England, it often does so in a dramatic fashion. Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, and today is even lovelier, with temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sun. Yesterday was Opening Day at Fenway Park, and at home we celebrated the occasion by opening our bedroom windows for the first time this year, thereby giving our indoor cats their first sniff of fresh air in months. It’s an annual ritual that’s felt long overdue.

Magnolia blossoms

Every spring always features a welcome series of firsts. Yesterday was the first time I wore sandals and capris, for instance, and today is the first time I wore flats rather than knee-high boots to campus. It’s funny how a simple change in shoes is enough to buoy your spirits: after spending months lumbering around in boots and a bulky coat, my body feels significantly lighter and more energetic in sandals and shirtsleeves.

Fuzzy flowers

The landscape itself seems lighter and more joyful, a proverbial spring in its step. At Framingham State, the magnolia behind Hemenway Hall is blooming, along with pussy willows and another kind of fuzzy-flowered tree. After waiting so long for spring to finally arrive, it seem we’ve reached the proverbial tipping point, with flowers blooming and students peeling off winter layers. It’s a welcome relief to see flowers, tree buds, and winter-pale skin after so many months of ice, snow, and thick layers of clothing. Once spring finally arrives, you can’t imagine how you ever survived so long without it.


Last week was unseasonably warm, so over the weekend all of Newton seemed to be blooming, buzzing, and leafing: a flurry of flowering.

When lilacs last in the schoolyard leafed

Spring’s first burst of activity is typically tenuous, however, and tonight temperatures are predicted to plunge below freezing. I don’t worry much for the wild plants and trees that were lured into leafing last week, as they are long accustomed to New England’s meteorological mood swings. But farmers who tend fruit orchards are rightfully worried that their early bloomers won’t last: the perennial risk of relying upon nature’s seasonal bounty in the age of Global Weirding.

Magnolia with raindrops

When I was a kid, I had a picture-book titled What Do They Do When It Rains? The premise of the book was simple: for each two-page spread, the pictures showed someone doing something in the sunshine, and then the same person doing something else in the rain.


I don’t remember most of the scenarios pictured in the book: I think firefighters were shown polishing their fire engines inside the fire station on rainy days, and surely there were pictures of people walking outside wearing colorful raincoats. I remember, though, that the man who sold umbrellas was the only character who was noticeably happier on rainy days because of the brisk business he did, and I remember the book including a silly tableau depicting a house painter who painted houses when it was sunny (picture a man on a ladder painting the exterior of a house) and who painted houses when it rained (picture the same man inside his living room, painting a picture of a house).

Of the various picture-books I read as a kid, I think I’ve always remembered this one because of the cheery message it sent. Even though everyone apart from the umbrella-seller was happier when it was sunny, everyone made the best of even a rainy day. “Life doesn’t stop when it rains” was the implicit moral I took away from this picture-book. “You just make the appropriate modifications.”

Grape hyacinth

What do I do when it rains? I take pictures. Because my everyday-use camera is already well-worn, I don’t worry about raindrops; as long as the rains aren’t torrential, you can keep your camera “mostly” dry inside your pocket, taking it out for quick snaps between raindrops. The secret to taking pictures on overcast and even rainy days is to keep shooting. This morning was drizzly, so I walked in a raincoat and ball-cap; wanting to snap a picture of some rain-dampened magnolia blossoms, I ended up shooting a handful of poorly lit images before getting one that was good enough to share. This morning might have been overcast and drizzly, but that wasn’t enough to stop the birds from singing, the magnolias from blooming, or me from shooting pictures.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Overcast.