We're still a month away from the official first day of spring, but when that time arrives it will likely be at least somewhat anticlimactic.
Spring has already sprung, at least in my world.
All of the key signs of spring are with us, if you know where to look and listen.
No, I'm not pointing to the occasional robin in the backyard or some of the other traditional signs that spring has arrived.
I'm talking about some of the more realistic signs of spring that we all associate with, whether we realize it or not.
Each year about this time, I have a mental checklist of five items that must materialize before I consider winter over and that spring is officially with us.
See if any -- or all -- ring a bell with you:
1. That guy: You know him: He might be a neighbor, business acquaintance or someone you simply see around town. He's the person who is always the first to wear shorts and sandals once the temperature is above freezing. He may have a winter jacket on, but he'll be walking down the sidewalk in shorts and sandals.
2. The first window: The first day of brilliant sunshine, even if snow remains on the ground, my wife is guaranteed to open the kitchen window to allow some "fresh air" in the house. "Kath," I remind her, "you realize it's 35 degrees outside, and it's still February?" It doesn't matter. That window is coming open. This also is the same woman who sleeps with a fan on 365 days a year.
3. Play ball!: Those first glimpses of Major League Baseball spring training are another sure sign warm weather is not far away. For most of the 65 years I have spent on this earth, one of the best sights is grown men playing catch in Florida or Arizona every February.
4. Hole-y cow!: We are always anxious for the snow and ice to melt, but when those winter coverings have disappeared, it quickly becomes obvious what the elements have done to our city streets. Maybe it's just me, but Mother Nature's roadway carnage especially seems damaging this year. Some of the potholes are the size of Rhode Island. I do not envy the city's street crews when the mass repairs begin.
5. Why even bother?: If you have left your outdoor Christmas lights up this long, why bother taking them down now? Just leave them up until it's time to celebrate the next holiday season. That's what I always think each year when I drive by a particular house a few blocks from where we live. As of this writing, the Christmas lights are still up on that house -- again. But when those lights are finally removed -- and at some point, they always are -- it will officially be spring.