D.C.’s four-letter word
The winter-weary do what they can to find signs of spring.
Somewhere, a daffodil is tapping its wristwatch.
It’s five minutes past March, and we are waiting, coiled, ready for spring to spring, yearning for crocuses, dry sidewalks and breezes that don’t make us clutch our collars.
After enduring the coldest February in 35 years, the up-to-nine inches of late-season snow that closed schools and crushed spirits Thursday elicited a communal groan. March is the new February. Or the old February.
And worse, March’s lion mode looks to be fiercer than usual, our increasingly loathed forecasters tell us. Also out of favor: shadow-spotting groundhogs (looking at you, Punxsutawney Phil).
“Somebody ought to shoot that bastard,” said Mike Morlang, an idled Nuclear Regulatory Commission staffer nursing a coffee at a Maryland McDonald’s Thursday morning.
But enough about winter (we won’t use the four-letter s-word again in this report). No, we’re on to searching for spring wherever we can.
At Google, analysts said queries on vacation deals spiked to three times the normal rate as the winter storm hit this week, undoubtedly fueled by stir-crazy sun-seekers.
At Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, Md., the two-acre greenhouse has become a kind of climate clinic, where frustrated gardeners come to just stand and inhale the coming season. “We’re finding a lot of them in there,” said manager Bill Mann. “It gives them a chance to think spring even if they can’t get started.”
And at the Spring Center in Silver Spring, housebound customers drove up the demand for delivery spring rolls at — where else? — Spring Garden Chinese restaurant. “Our food is fresh, like spring,” explained owner Kelly Shi.
If spring isn’t in the air yet, it may be lurking underfoot. Scrape away some of the unmentionable frozen precipitation, and you could find some of those longedfor early blooms.
“I saw some snowdrops in my garden yesterday for the first time,” said Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post’s garden columnist.
Higgins said the season is indeed further behind than this same week last year, when temperatures reached nearly 70 degrees. But, like other penned-in plant-lovers, he is finding bits of the obstinate spring where he can: In his case, in his basement, under the grow lights where his kohlrabi seedlings are basking until their outdoor debut.
“It’s a good way to get over the s--w and ice,” he said.
In most years, those in charge of the Mary Garden at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis would have dirt under their fingernails by now.
“Because of the weather, we’re waiting,” said Rose Love, whose florally appropriate name evokes thoughts of a warm April stroll in Paris.
Love runs the group of master gardeners that tends the plot, which features varieties of flowers named for the Virgin Mary. She admires the garden’s begonias and vincas, but she most looks forward to the blue hydrangeas, their blossoms resembling a cluster of butterflies on the verge of takeoff.
She and her fellow caretakers so miss their gardening that they plan to meet for lunch this weekend just to talk horticulture.
Boyd McHugh is a human ba- rometer of spring. He works in Spring Valley, in Northwest Washington. During the winter, he is the sales manager at Ski Center. Each March, that same store transforms into Spring Valley Patio, and he becomes an outdoor-furniture buyer.
As he has for the last 16 years, he is waiting for the moment of morph, when they take down the rack of ski parkas at the front and replace it with a vast photo mural of a tropical beach.
“I don’t know, we may push it back a week,” McHugh said as the winter weather coated his nearly empty parking lot Thursday. “We love it, but I hope this is the last of the [crystalline water droplets] we are going to see this year.”
Businesses pine for spring. In Washington, it’s an industry. Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival draws more than 1.2 million tourists and generates in excess of $100 million in economic impact.
Convention season will soon bring thousands of expense accounts to town. Graduation ceremonies for area colleges will fill hotels and restaurants.
“It is our Super Bowl,” Elliott Ferguson, head of Destination DC, said of the season.
Spring fashions weren’t waiting for warm weather. One shopper at Hu’s Shoes in Georgetown bought an $820 pair of Isabel Marant flats Thursday in defiance of the slush outside.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up energy and demand for sandals that remind you of brighter days,” said owner Eric Eden.
To runners, many of whom are in the final stages of training for next week’s Rock’n’Roll Marathon and other seasonal races, spring means a stretch of dry pavement. Those became even scarcer this week, pushing the jogging throngs to the few reliable open roads in the area, such as the stretches of Hains Point and Rock Creek Park closed to traffic on weekends.
“Beach Drive was as crowded as a church on Easter,” said Charlie Ban, editor of Run Washington magazine. “Everybody and their mother who hoped to get in a run has been out there.”
Ban himself relied Thursday on the always-plowed roads ringing the U.S. Capitol. Ten loops around the dome gave him 12.5 miles.
Alex Marshall sensed just a whiff of spring Wednesday, in the moments before the relatively warm rain changed to . . . something colder. And he needed it. Marshall, 21, is back in the District while on spring break from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where more than 115 inches of flaky frozen vapor — the most of any large city in the country — have piled up this season.
“I feel like I’m being followed,” he said.
On Spring Road in Springfield, Ann Wade stared out of her window at a yard matted with white, fluffy irony.
It’s been far too long since her miniature schnauzers, Holly and Katie, played in fresh green grass.
“I’m kind of tired of things shutting down all the time,” said Wade, a federal employee. “It would be nice to not be so cooped up.”
The residents of Blizzard Court in Stafford, Va., could not be reached for comment.
A stop sign’s message in yearningly named Silver Spring is not heeded by the weather Thursday as another snowstorm hits the region. Up to nine inches of snow was expected by the end of the night.
A window full of spring fashions seems to have bloomed a touch too early as snow falls Thursday in Alexandria following the region’s coldest February in 35 years.