Spring can take a much greater toll than winter

The great, pink bear roused from his hibernation, lumbered from his cave, stretched, yawned and yanked the pull cord to his gas-powered lawn mower.

What a day! It was almost spring. A few more sunny afternoons like this and his pink coat would be replaced by tan.

All around him, other bears -- black, brown, pink and yellow -- were pursuing a similar rite of spring. He greeted them with a wave and a grunt and began pushing the mower across his backyard.

"Look what I have done," he told his mate after he had gone inside. "Our yard was full of weeds, dandelions and little purple blossoms. Now, though, the yard is neat. I have conquered it. I have done a great thing."

His mate, who was dusting, was not impressed by his roar.

"You still haven't mowed the front yard," she reminded him, "and that's what everybody sees first. It's been a mess for a couple of weeks. You should have started the yard work a week ago."

"But we were snowed in for so long," replied the king of his cave. "In fact, it snowed a couple of times. It was a terrible hibernation -- the 'coldest winter in almost 14 years.' "

"What does that mean?"

"I was quoting from an old Rod Stewart song, actually."

She sighed.

"But that's nonsense," she said while plugging in the vacuum. "How can it be 'almost 14 years'? I can see people saying 'almost 15 years' or 'almost 20 years.' Fourteen is such an odd number (although it is an even number) to use, however. That would be like saying, 'Margene looks like she's almost 39.' "

"It's just that -- "

"Anyway," she continued, "it can't be the coldest winter in almost 14 years, because do you know what 'almost 14 years' is? It's 131/2 years, give or take. And what does that make such a winter? Summer! So 'summer' is the 'coldest winter in almost 14 years'? I don't think so."

"Well, you have to admit," said the man-bear, who had never thought about such things, "it's been a long, cold lonely winter."

"Now you're quoting The Beatles?"

"Yeah, from Here Comes the Sun . An appropriate reference, don't you think?"

"Look, I'll acknowledge that we had real snow this winter, and that it hung around a good while, but that's no excuse for your taking the winter off. There were plenty of other chores you could have done outside if you hadn't decided to vegetate for three months."

The mighty bear puffed up to bellow, but then he thought better of it.

"Hibernate," he muttered as his shoulders slumped. "Not vegetate."

Hibernation had been wonderful. Now, after his brief commune with nature, he longed for his dormant state again. Maybe it wasn't too late.

He walked into the den, guided by the instinct that guides creatures great and small.

It took him unerringly to the familiar environs of his sofa.

"Where's the remote?" he growled, but his mate was vacuuming, and she paid him no mind.

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