Spring arrives and El Nino beats a retreat

05 April 1998

A day after spring officially arrived in New York, snow fell four inches deep on the ground. New Yorkers quipped "spring in the air and snow on the ground!" We looked out on to vistas of white - white rooftops and tree tops everywhere. Fauzah and I loved it.

That was two weeks ago. Last weekend Fauzah and I together with Didi and two friends - Poh Hong and Eng Chye -walked and biked (or cycled as we would say) in Central Park which is across our apartment.

In the 843 green and rolling acres of the park, are a disused reservoir, a skating rink, laygrounds, tennis courts, ball fields, a Shakespearean open-air theater and other attractions such as bronze statues commemorating world famous personalities - Shakespeare Robert Burns, Walter Scott and others - are strategically placed. In one spot the leading characters of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, including toadstools attract and amuse children and adults alike.

There are 500,000 trees and shrubs. At the moment creamy white magnolia flowers cover the trees - so do masses of blush pink cherry blossoms and magenta coloured rhododendron. There are also "hills" and lakes.

As we enjoyed the beautiful park - clean before summer tourists arrive and capture it as their own - I recall the poem I learned while in Form Four at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar in 1953 - Wiliam Wordsworth's "Daffodils".

I asked Fauzah to declaim it which she did beautifully. Here it is which I would like to share with you.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch 'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced;
but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills And dances with the daffodils

In the American capital, Washington D.C.,45 minutes away by air from here where I spent two beautiful springs in 1961 and 1962, blossoming cherry trees at the Tidal Basin draw out thousands of Washingtonians, diplomatic residents and tourists to play, recreate and have fun as the temperatures reach the seventies.

Normal Conditions

El Nino Conditions

In the New York metropolitan area the temperatures were between the seventies and eighties - one day it was 83°F, the hottest in the month of March for many, many years on record.

El Nino has led the United States as it does to other nations on a not-always merry weather chase this year. But scientists say the peak of its influence has passed and its effects on the United States are progressively weakened by an even more powerful climatic force - the arrival of spring.