The morning passengers on the 4F bus into downtown Minneapolis are an unusually morose group today. As they board, their jaws are tightly clenched, their eyes are downcast, and upon taking their seats they quickly bury themselves in some form of escapism. Minneapolitans are a bookish lot by nature but this morning it seems that nearly all of them bury themselves in novels, and the remaining handful quickly lose themselves in the world of ipod music players. There is almost no conversation at all this morning, and when one discussion does arise between two young adults, I can see surrounding passengers glance at the talkative pair in thinly disguised disgust. Heavily invested in their melancholy, the passengers are deeply resentful over being distracted from it.
The reason for the the low mood may be because, on the eve of calendar spring, none of us are dressed in the light jackets and sweaters, or even the rain gear, that one might expect for this time of year. Instead, the garb consists of heavy woolen overcoats and puffy down parkas, thick insulated mittens and gloves, heavy boots, sturdy scarves, stocking hats and ear muffs. We are so bundled up that the bus feels like a shipping crate packed with foam peanuts.
With spring arriving 24 hours from now, it is 5 degrees F. this morning, with a stiff northern wind that makes it feel, we're told, like minus 14 degrees.
We have had enough. Minnesotans are relatively stoic, even arrogant about thriving through these brutal winters, but we manage this because of the promise of a beautiful if short spring, a sultry summer that lets us store up heat for the winter, and autumns that are truly stunning. When winter begins to extend past its normal 4 1/2- or 5-month allowance, we start to get testy. Weather that would make us shrug in January feels damn near intolerable in late March. Nature has played an especially cruel joke this year, because just a year ago St. Patrick's day saw 80 degree temperatures and green lawns with gardens already heavy with blooming spring bulbs.
This year, the crocus and daffodils are still hidden by 14 inches of ice and snow cover. It if goes much longer, we are likely to because suicidal alcoholics, like the Finns.
Politically and scientifically, I subscribe to the belief in the dangers of man-made carbon dioxide increases causing havoc to the planet's climate and ecosystems. But springs like this make me utter a simple curse:
"Global warming, my ass."