Today, numbers have stories to tell. March, six days in, is still deciding what to come in as. Lion? Lamb? Worm-eating fernbird? This brings to mind the famous John Belushi routine from SNL about March, which I reproduce here courtesy of Chuck Welch and Tom McMahon:
Chevy Chase: Last week we made the comment that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Now here to reply is our chief meteorologist, John Belushi, with a seasonal report.
John Belushi: Thank you Chevy. Well, another winter is almost over and March true to form has come in like a lion, and hopefully will go out like a lamb. At least that’s how March works here in the United States.
But did you know that March behaves differently in other countries? In Norway, for example, March comes in like a polar bear and goes out like a walrus. Or, take the case of Honduras where March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.
Let’s compare this to the Maldive Islands where March comes in like a wildebeest and goes out like an ant. A tiny, little ant about this big.
[holds thumb and index fingers a small distance apart]
Unlike the Malay Peninsula where March comes in like a worm-eating fernbird and goes out like a worm-eating fernbird. In fact, their whole year is like a worm-eating fernbird.
Or consider the Republic of South Africa where March comes in like a lion and goes out like a different lion. Like one has a mane, and one doesn’t have a mane. Or in certain parts of South America where March swims in like a sea otter, and then it slithers out like a giant anaconda.
There you can buy land real cheap, you know. And there’s a country where March hops in like a kangaroo, and stays a kangaroo for a while, and then it becomes a slightly smaller kangaroo. Then, then, then for a couple of days it’s sort of a cross between a, a frilled lizard and a common house cat.
[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]
Wait wait wait wait. Then it changes back into a smaller kangaroo, and then it goes out like a, like a wild dingo. Now, now, and it’s not Australia! Now, now, you’d think it would be Australia, but it’s not!
[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]
Now look, pal! I know a country where March comes in like an emu and goes out like a tapir. And they don’t even know what it means! All right? Now listen, there are nine different countries, where March comes in like a frog, and goes out like a golden retriever. But that- that’s not the weird part! No, no, the weird part is, is the frog. The frog- The weird part is-
[has seizure and falls off chair]
The weird part is that Belushi died on March 5, yesterday, in 1982. Could it have been 28 years ago?
The other number that tells a story is 50, as in fifty degrees, which it got up to today, and beyond. I tried to interview the last remaining black chunk of snow in the Walgreen's parking lot, but it had no comment.
Birds, however, did. Song sparrows, whose Latin name is melospiza melodia, may not know from fifty degrees, but they do their own non-numerical counting, measuring out their newly-minted jingles in a practiced repetition, something like: "this, then another one, then a different one, then something else, higher, and again and again and again and again, then something else, lower, and definitive," bringing the elegant little declaration to an end. Then the whole thing is repeated, maybe with variations. All over the country, moreover, song sparrow jingles are perforating the silence of winter by the thousands. Also, of course, cardinals are delivering up their clear wakeful notes in multiples, not counting them, but repeating them, as many as necessary.
What this adds up to is something hopeful, something we want to call spring, but we're cautious about March releasing the wild dingo or the anaconda. So we take it, if you will, bird by bird.
I'll note one other number: one hundred, which is the number of posts on this blog with this one, which means that I have followed the orbit from October to March, so far, and that the next post will be 101.