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As we turn the calendar to March, I start thinking of spring and looking for signs of its imminent arrival on Cape Cod. The days have already grown a bit longer, the sun setting closer to 6:00 in the evening than the 4:00 PM sunsets we saw in the dark of December. But for many Cape Codders, the re-opening of favorite summer eateries is a sure sign that spring is around the corner.
Steve and Sue’s Par-tee Freeze opened in time for February school vacationers, and Cooke’s Seafood in Hyannis opened last week. Seafood Sam’s, a Cape Cod institution since 1974, will open its doors for the 2010 season on March 6th. I’ll have to wait a bit longer for my favorite clam shack to open, Sesuit Harbor Café in Dennis, MA. I ran into J.C., the owner, last week at the Cape Cod Mall and he promised me he’d be opening in mid-April, hopefully just in time for my birthday. I sure am jonesing for a lobster roll.
Another sure sign that spring is returning to Cape Cod is when we hear the first chirps of the spring peeper. Sometimes you only hear a single high-pitched peep, which sounds like a loud baby chick or maybe a smoke detector in need of a battery. At other times the chirping is more melodious, almost chorus-like. Last year, the Cape Cod Times reported that the first peepers were heard locally on March 27th, heralding the news that warmer weather was on its way.
I’ve already heard reports of bright purple and white crocuses peaking through the earth elsewhere in southern New England, and seen and heard the red-breasted robin so often associated with spring. My mother‘s favorite sign of spring, interestingly enough, was the distinctive odor of the skunk cabbage, something akin to rotting meat. Found in wetlands and marshy areas, it is one of the first plants to bloom in spring and actually generates enough heat to melt the snow around it.
My husband was the one who introduced me to my favorite harbinger of spring: the American goldfinch. Shrouded in khaki green for much of the year, male goldfinches molt in late winter as they ready themselves for the approaching mating season. As the gray of winter gives way to longer days and milder temperatures, when I long for summer breezes but cannot yet feel them, a single male finch appears at our birdfeeder with one bright canary yellow feather. I saw one just the other morning. And in that moment I knew, just as I know that the leaves will fall in autumn, that spring has arrived on Cape Cod.