Floraison for the Last Week of Winter

Snowdrops!I’m cheating a little calling it the last week of winter.

It’s -10 C with a windchill of -18 this morning.

But the light is spring sunlight, the days lengthening noticeably, the temperatures trending upwards. Almost all of the snow is gone, after a heavy rainfall last week, and the birds are starting to sing their spring songs. When I get up at 6:15 to go deactivate the alarm on the church, which is my chief daily duty as sexton, I can hear the crows greeting the sunrise and the starlings ratcheting out their morning songs, and occasionally the chickadees’ spring songs — once the pheee-be starts I’ll know it’s spring for sure.

There were ducks paddling in shallow puddles on the grass of the Commons, and I’ve seen some flocks passing overhead. They can’t be going too far north yet — Prince Edward Island still has a foot of snow, according to my parents — but they’re starting to push back the season. I love the idea of the spring coming north, edging its way up the world, faster in the valleys, more slowly on hills and mountains. I’ve always thought it would be fun to walk the Appalachian trail or some other south-to-north route, follow the spring of the year up the hemisphere.

Spring is my favourite season by far. I think it goes back to living in the North, especially the year in the Arctic where we didn’t see the sun for several months. I remember the frenzied Arctic spring, the water everywhere and the flowers, and the birdsong and the wind.

Witch HazelHalifax has a slower spring. This is the last week of winter, the spring equinox coming this week, and although there will almost certainly be more snow before the end of winter, I can believe that spring is coming. I found snowdrops nearly blooming, and a witch hazel unfurling its yellow blossoms. The bulbs by the public library downtown — the warmest spot in the city, as far as I can tell; they’ve overwintered canna lilies (zone 8!) tucked against the foundations of a protected inglenook — are poking through, the viburnum and forsythia there are just awaiting a few warm days.

The end of winter. Beginning of spring. Whenever I think of the catchphrase of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books (and tv show) — “Winter is coming” — I always want to say: “Yes, but so is spring!” Spring after winter, sunrise after night, light after dark. I suppose this is why my first novel is centred around the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, and set in the last days of Lent before Easter. I am a gardener and a Christian — yes, spring after winter. This is Lent, winter, the ground is still frozen . . . but I have seedlings just potted on, and I have seen the snowdrops lifting their heads.

Spring is coming.

Tomato Seedlings

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