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Early spring 

Those elementary school essays we had to write each season celebrating daffodils, apple blossoms, leaf piles and ice sickles have special meaning in North Carolina.

Here, we get to two springs, two chances to notice and engage the wonder out the window, beyond the flat screen (14 inch or 52 inch, whatever...).

January's spring is always flirtatious. You know it's going to be a brief fling, a tease of what March and April promise. But we embrace it and cherish it like an old friend's surprising knock on the front door. This year we even had a symphony of accompanying gusts of wind!

January's spring means T-shirts and jeans on the clothes line by Saturday after breakfast will be dry by Sunday dinner.

January's spring means someone will leave the house for school in flip-flops and mittens.

January's spring means, yup, it is getting lighter. At the end of this month we've earned an extra 50 minutes of daylight, a full half hour in the evening.

January's spring means two stores on Ninth Street will have bright signs out front offering "Sleds for Sale" at the same time two other stores are having sales on T-shirts. The first sets of broccoli and lettuce are due in next week.

January's spring is when you remember the last thing the lawn mower guy told you, "Don't forget to empty the gas or you'll grunge up the carburetor ... again."

January's spring means time is running out to plant that bag of bulbs you bought at the school fund-raiser.

January's spring means you'll find the brightest colors on the feet of 4 year olds; test driving their new boots on puddles every where.

January's spring is when once again you realize you really don't like pruning fruit trees.

January's spring means the chickens start chanting, "We want greens! We want greens!" every time they hear the backdoor slam.

If January's spring is a good one, and it sure was this year, the astrological combination of the outdoor spring-to-do list on the cusp of an over-extended New Year's resolution list is enough to make you double your afternoon caffeine dose.

January's spring means, "Heh, no ice storms this year!" and "Heh, we dodged the flu," and "Heh, no snow-day school closings!" You know you're kidding yourself as you put away the aluminum shovel and tire chains.

January's spring means pile-ups of outer layers in lost and founds everywhere. Those favorite team sweatshirts and logo jackets better have your name in them.

A full moon walk on a misty January spring evening is so other worldly, you feel like you're walking in a cloud, timeless.

January's spring means you feel a bit guilty putting your daughter on a plane to New York, going back to school where it's 14 degrees and snowing.

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