BY TONY WANLESS
We’re in that wonderful time when winter ends and spring arrives.
Soon, there will be no more looking out the window every morning to see what kind of day it will be. It could be cold and dark – as it has been for the past three months. Or it might turn sunny, tantalizing you with a hint that better, drier, warmer weather is coming. Mother nature has trouble making up her mind early in this month.
So you can be fooled. In early March, it could be just like February – cold and wet and dark when you wake up, and then later warmer and hinting at better weather to come. But on March 20, that will start to go away. Sure, old-man winter might still hang around desperately for a while hoping to beat nature and hang on.
But that’s not likely.
Every day for the next three months it will begin to get warmer and brighter in the Northern Hemisphere, in which Vancouver is situated.The sun will rise a few minutes earlier every day and and fall into night a little later. Plants will sprout, winds will soften.
That’s generally, of course. In Renfrew-Collingwood it might be a little different than in the rest of B.C. because we are in Vancouver, which is next to the Pacific Ocean. Our spring usually comes a bit earlier than the March 20 date because our coastal climate means the ocean has a strong influence over our weather.
On the coast, in early March we can be swathed in raincoat-and-boots-and-warm-hats for a few days and then suddenly it’s spring. The coats and umbrellas are thrown off, the joggers are out in only shorts and light shirts, the flowers start popping their heads out of the ground and the birds are singing.
We’re lucky that way. In much of Canada, winter still holds everyone in its grip for a few more weeks. East of Vancouver and in eastern B.C., Canadians still shudder through the worst of that season. The Prairie provinces often have to endure bitter cold, although it can be broken in Alberta by the odd warm current that wends like a train through the Rocky Mountains; the Great Lakes area is still shuddering in a deep freeze; In Quebec, the song “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” (My country is not a country, it is winter) is still true; and in Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, howling winds from the Atlantic Ocean have most people still wearing winter gear.
Spring, by the way, isn’t only enjoyed by current residents of the West Coast. Its gradual delivery of delight from misery has been known for centuries by First Nations who lived here in closer harmony with nature. They learned long ago how to cope with the changing nature of early spring, venturing out of their dwellings when the light and warmth arrived and then retreating back to their warming fires when the cold and dark and rain made a return engagement.
But today, we live in cities, in artificial environments fueled by electricity, and so are often removed from the full effects of nature. As a result, we aren’t able to change our feeling so easily.
That’s why spring is so important. It is the time of renewal, of approaching freedom from darkness, from enclosure, from sameness and boredom. It’s also why, for centuries, people have celebrated spring with various festivals like the Lunar New Year, celebrated this year on February. The festival is always an anticipation of the joys of spring.