Seasons: one Canadian’s definition of the first day of spring

The tutor has long been a student of the weather.  He shares his own definition and reflections about the coming of spring.

People who read this blog commonly may realize that I live on Canada’s west coast, but haven’t always.  The same is true for many you find out here.

Many of us likely don’t live here for the money.  Rather, the unique lifestyle attracts people – notably, the absence of the typical Canadian winter.

This year, I think I’ve had my snow shovel out twice, each time to push one or two inches of snow off the driveway.  It was as much for the mail carrier as for the car.  That was early in the season; the month of January, I can’t recall shovelling at all.

When I was a kid, I lived in the Maritimes.  Seasons change slowly there; winter comes late, but so does spring.  As a kid I realized that March 21 is only technically when spring arrives in the Maritimes.

At age 16 I arrived on the west coast in December.  The roads were bare; people didn’t wear winter boots or gloves.  Sometimes rain would fall many consecutive days, which surprised me.  However, when a sunny day came, you could play tennis or baseball just as if it was springtime.  Winter was similar to the other seasons: the weather on a given day affected what you could do, but the season itself didn’t.

That February I walked home from school in what a Maritimer would call “springtime” conditions.    Flowers were pushing up from their beds.  The evening air was delicious. I’d been told to expect it, but I wasn’t prepared.  Spring, officially, was still over a month away. To a Canadian from anywhere else, flowers in mid February seemed impossible.

Years went by.  I got used to the west coast weather.  I had kids.  I remember in the cold, raw wind and rain of a January morning, walking my three-year-old home from preschool.  He was crying; the 15 minute walk was against the wind, and it hurt his face. I knelt down beside him, pointing around the windswept field.  “Believe it or not,” I told him, “in six weeks, you’ll want to stay here and play.  It’ll be sunny and warm; you won’t want to go straight home.”  He didn’t believe me; I didn’t blame him.  We hurried through the soggy field and the January wind the last few minutes home.

Six weeks later, on the same walk home, my son was handing me his coat.  The green field was shining, radiating the bright sun’s heat.  The temperature was maybe eight or ten degrees Celsius.  Yet, it was a world away from the three degrees Celsius, with biting wind, we’d faced six weeks earlier.  Watching my son run around, I marveled at the arrival of spring.  Now, that raw weather of early January was hard to believe.

The Maritimer knows that, theoretically, spring starts on March 21, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to reality.  The west coast Canadian knows that, by March 21, it’s already been spring for around a month.  Clearly, a pragmatist might reject the March 21 definition as the start of spring in favour of a more meaningful one.

After 45 years shared between Canada’s east and west coasts, I’ve come up with my own definition for the first day of spring:  to me, it’s the first day that’s sunny with (positive) double digit temperature (Celsius).

This year, where I live, yesterday, January 25, was the first day of spring.  In the afternoon there was sun and blue sky with a temperature of 11C.  In fact, according to Environment Canada, yesterday’s temperature was 10C or 11C from around 10am to 4pm. The fields across the street have yet to turn firm and bright green, but they will in due time.

Why our weather on the west coast is so much milder than in the Maritimes, even though we’re further north, is bound to be an intriguing question to many Canadians. I’ll be exploring it in a future post:)

To my fellow Canadians: hang in there! Spring will come:)


Editor: Qentin H. Stanford. Canadian Oxford School Atlas, 6th ed. Toronto: Oxford    University Press.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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