It’s not unusual in Austin to see Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, flowering in February. Take as proof the one I stopped to photograph in the prairie restoration at Austin’s former Mueller Airport on February 17th. The patches of light in this image keep making me think of a stained glass window.
Texas mountain laurel is always a harbinger of spring, but if these flowers make you leap for joy a little more than usual, it may be because 2016 is a leap year and February 29th its leap day*. By the way, it’s an unwarranted leap of faith to believe that every fourth year is a leap year. That’s mostly true, but century years whose first part isn’t exactly divisible by 4 are not leap years: 1900 wasn’t a leap year and 2100 won’t be either, because 19 and 21 aren’t exactly divisible by 4. In contrast, 2000 was a leap year because 20 is divisible by 4. The next century leap year will be 2400, but somehow I don’t think any of us will be here to leap up and welcome it in.
Oh well, we can still welcome Wordsworth’s little poem:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
* And notice how I leaped** over the second occurrence of is in “2016 is a leap year and February 29th is its leap day.” Is is understood to repeat in the shortened version, and it doesn’t even depend on what the meaning of is is.
** American English generally leaps over the form leapt and lands on leaped.
© 2016 Steven Schwartzman