I love the first signs of the approaching season.

First, I love all seasons. For a long time, I’ve said that my favorite season is the one I am in. Summer, autumn, winter and spring in the Carolinas each has its own unique qualities that makes it exciting to live within. But some of the best days of the seasons are those just before the actual season arrives.

I know summer is coming when Simpson’s Produce on King’s Drive opens. For the non-Charlottean, Simpsons started as a fruit stand many years ago, and has since come to occupy a corner in one of the busiest intersections just outside downtown Charlotte. All summer, we go there and pick up our fresh produce for the week – corn, beans, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, peaches, new potatoes and more than I have time to mention. Simpson’s is so much a part of our summer that when I hear they are open, I know summer is not far behind.

Autumn is just around the corner the morning you walk outside and feel that first bite in the air – a crispness that you don’t feel any other time of year. The years we lived in New York taught me to feel and love autumn. On Saturdays in September, we would drive out of Schnectady and into the apple orchards west of the city. There would be roadside stands and festivals and apple barns selling apple butter, cider and best of all, apple cider donuts. The days were warm, but with that occasional chilly breeze that told you the leaves would soon be changing to a thousand colors, and then fall.

Autumn is so beautiful and long in Charlotte that winter is the season that tends to sneak up on me. I don’t think about it much when it’s not here. But my harbinger of winter is simply a number. 39. When I hear the first weather forecaster say the number 39, I know that we’re starting to dip into the first throes of what will become winter.

Then there’s spring.

We have a love/hate relationship with all the people who owned our house before us. Even after living here for 15 years, I occasionally find something that makes me scratch my head and think, why in the world did they do that?

But I do know one thing about someone who lived here that doesn’t irritate me at all. They loved buttercups. They planted them in huge numbers and through the years, they have propagated with great fury. By mid- to late-March, the backyard will be full of them – a blanket of bright yellow on stems of nature’s most beautiful shade of green. And it’s those first blooms – the early adapters, droopy and not fully-opened – that tell me spring is in the air.

This morning, I noticed them for the first time.

Spring's first buttercups!

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