Spring in south Georgia — I usually explain to people who are not from around here — generally lasts about three days and those three days are not always consecutive.
The pattern goes something like this: Chill and rain set in for a week followed by one gloriously sunny day during which the azaleas on Savannah Avenue burst forth like showgirls on the Las Vegas strip. The next morning, in a fit of ill-advised optimism, I wear something with short sleeves and spend the entire day shivering under a sky gray as General Lee's Traveller. The morning after brings with it hard wind and more rain that scatters and then flattens the azalea blossoms into microscope slides.
Day three dawns with a chorus of avian courtship tunes and sunlight lasering through the cracks in the window blinds. The dogwood blooms demurely lift their faces to be kissed by a breeze that smells just slightly of grass and I stand on the sidewalk coveting the convertibles that appear about every fifth car. Days four through seven are sunny, but cold and the only thing that makes me smile is the fact that I haven't moved my winter clothes to the guest room closet yet.
The eighth day is balmy and I decide where to eat lunch by locating a place with an open outside table. The ninth day the temperature is 85 degrees — summer has arrived, spring is gone for good.
But this year, oh, this year, we've had a real spring. One day after another of cool mornings ripening into warm afternoons and fading into pleasant evenings. One day after another of dawns that flood the fields with light like melted butter and sunsets that bleed away like old bruises. I stand outside as the air moves in gentle currents around my face, my arms, my legs and I understand for the first time why the vocabulary of the weatherman includes the word mild.
As much as I have enjoyed the days of repetitive atmospheric conditions, however, I'm not so certain that the animals around Sandhill have; they've been taken off guard and their behavior shows it. For example, on the way to work the other day I saw an opossum waddling along the edge of the newly-plowed field just outside the front door. His fur was exactly the color of the dirt and, at first glance, all I saw was the black paws and little black nose as though he were materializing bit by bit from the early morning ether. What he was doing wandering around during what should have been his sleeping hours I can't imagine.
The activity that really had me flummoxed, however, was that around the hummingbird feeder one afternoon. I had my legs stretched out and a magazine balanced in my lap when the familiar droning started. Within seconds, not one or even two, but three hummingbirds were dive bombing the feeder at the corner of the deck. There were other feeders in the yard, all of them full, but the trio was determined to drink from a single spout on that particular one.
With a great flapping of wings and crashing of bodies they began rolling in spirals like barnstorming biplanes. One of the three flew away rather quickly toward the feeder hanging from the chinaberry tree as the remaining two continued to poke at each others' heads with their narrow beaks. The pearly greens and blues of their bodies smeared the air in wide swaths as the pitch of their hums grew higher and higher. I'd never seen anything like it.
Eventually they separated and one, the vanquished I gathered, flitted away. The victor pitched himself down toward the feeder and lowered his head to the fake plastic blossom.
Getting what he wanted, he began to move away across the yard, but just as one of the other birds re-approached he abruptly altered his direction and attacked. The same sequence of events took place at least four times, enough for me to dub him The Bully and start talking to him, first trying to convince him to play nice and, finally, letting him know in no uncertain terms that his behavior was unappreciated at Sandhill and that he'd best straighten up. I don't think he cared.
I've always thought of spring fever as a pleasant, fanciful, slightly capricious state of mind brought about by a general feeling of gratitude that yet another dark and cold winter had been survived. Apparently that was the disease in its incubation stage. Apparently the presenting symptoms of the malady are insomnia and extreme aggression. And, as humans, apparently we should be glad that spring in south Georgia usually lasts only three days.