Monday, May 17, 2010

THE HARBINGERS


     By Arthur H. Gunther III


     We have chirping birds in these parts, particularly in the spring, and they are the harbingers of Northeast America’s April to September love/hate affair with what now amounts to three seasons in two: early spring, summer and the newer mixed season of spring/summer, that one marked by un-delightful humidity. The birds are unusually silent in that developing “season,” initially  limited to a few days now and then and now sometimes lasting a week or more.

We know we have more humidity in 2010 than in 1990 or 1960, because clumps of green mold grow on the north side of buildings, rarely seen before. People report more headaches and sniffles and aches and pains. Even a little bit of garden work brings humidity-driven sweat, and the birds, a welcome accompaniment in the season of rebirth, don’t chirp as much.

Not all will agree with me about humidity. Millions live in parts of the United States and the rest of the world where it is a daily part of the weather and welcomed as such. But up here, as the saying goes, “It isn’t the heat that bothers me, it’s the humidity.”

We also proclaim, at least those who choose to remain here, that “We are fortunate to have four seasons,” even though we naturally complain when snow and ice overstay their initial holiday wonder arrival, or the winds of March chill us too much and extend impossibly high utility bills.

In this American democracy, at least when there was the requisite growing middle class so necessary for the economy, social progress, human rights and for fulfilling the ideals of the Founders, there was choice to move about, to take in four seasons if you wished, to enjoy humidity-laden areas, the dry sections of the West, the plains of the Dakotas, the light of the Pacific Coast.

I fear that with the extending polarization of the economy – the very, very rich, the high rich, the very, very poor and the poor – there will be fewer of our children and grandchildren in the middle-class ranks. I enjoy my four seasons, and I would fight any battle to assure my own and your own can choose different geography.

Perhaps my concern is unfounded, but I swear that even in spring’s renewal this year, there were fewer birds chirping. Seems there’s an ailment among us called Greed, and I guess even some of the songbirds have flown away.

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