That’s what I miss — the thaw and break and re-awakening that comes with a prairie spring. In Aberdeen things are just always in a various state of wet. Grey, tinged with a green that I am unable to discern as mold, moss or algae (maybe various permutations of such?). This has its own magic. The way the daffodils pop out of grassy fields in early March, blanketing whole swaths of the country in yellow and white blossoms, well that’s a kind of magic. The cherry blossoms and magnolias bobbing in the wind. These are beautiful, fragile. A glorious contrast to the granite expanse of the gritty, Doric city.
But as I listened to a Vinyl Cafe podcast this weekend, from a kitchen just off Queen Street in Toronto, Stuart McLean made mention of “one day in May, as the leaves of Virginia creeper green along the garage walls in the alley”. And this evoked such a powerful sense of place and longing for me. To be sitting in the back alley of my Mom’s house, the pools of melting snow swooshing as each car drives tentatively past. The moist smell of fresh dirt, the promise of a hot summer and a languid fall. That whisper of heat rising off of city streets and sidewalks after a long, cold winter. The shift, so mysterious and predictable all at once. The tilt of the earth, the movement of clouds and the swirl of winds overhead giving us this precious gift of a real spring. A proper spring. A giant transformation that comes rushing down city streets, much to the delight of anyone who takes the time to watch the currents of melt-water shaping and shifting the ice in the roads.
These are a kind of prairie medicine.
Hard to imagine that when Toronto looked like this ^, I could carry myself away to a nostalgic spot next to a steady stream of Edmonton traffic on a dusty April evening. Maybe few would find poetry in all that grit that coats the city once the snow melts. The garbage that reveals itself after carefully resting in woven layers of snow and ice for six months of deep cold. But it is all I can do to yearn for a bike and three or four hours to explore the city on those early spring nights. Breaking the winter and rejoicing in the dry, hot, summer to come.
Maybe I like spring because it is both a pause and a rebellion all at once. Thoughtful, quiet and riotous. Very much to my liking, these so-called in-betweens. The phenomena that refuse to be categorized neatly. Maybe, if we were to look at a season that most captures my rebellious, hopeful Metis heart, it’s spring. Renewal, growth, faith and movement. Virtues that guide me all of the way over here in granite-clad Aberdeen.
I’ll leave you with some snippets of writing about spring that I shared on old (defunct) blogs:
‘Neko Case, late March sunlight and the cool, gritty spring seeping into every corner of the city — hiding in the dusty film clinging to stoic elms and poplars, slipping into the silt in the puddles that hug the corners every intersection, flying into my squinting eyes as I scan glaring evening pavement. Every soul around here looks like a concert flyer bleached and crinkled from the harsh snow and wind of winter — blinking, suddenly conscious of our weariness and filth now that the promise of renewal hangs softly in the air. Pregnant with hope but battered down by endless nights and bone-aching cold.
The calm, industrial wake of a city about to burst with a succulent and embarrassing brashness.’ – April 2008
‘It’s purple-indigo nighttime. Lounging on the couch below the picture window, I strain to hear the birds calling. Despite snow, rain, and more snow, the songbirds have returned doggedly to this city, and dawn and dusk are filled with their melodic twittering.
It’s not a terrible spring; even with endless gray and winds that pierce through layers of clothing, there are signs that Mother Nature is trying to bring warmth and comfort to us. Walking down bike trails I spy buds on tree limbs: new, fragile and hopeful as they cling to branches waving in the wind. Daffodils shoot up shocking and green from rich black earth that circles old brick apartment buildings on the river’s edge. Running along the river bank reveals pairs of beautiful Canada geese and ducks floating happily amidst ice floes.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement as the world comes back to life; the grass is a bit greener every morning and the sun stretches out longer every day. Even cloudy daylight is a respite from endless frozen nights.
Somehow the boundless potential of spring crawls in underneath your skin, worms its way into your heart and shakes off all of the doubts that hibernated there in the dead of winter. Even the darkest of moods lightens when birds call so happily into a chilly April night.’ –April 2007
‘riding in the rain
a certain timelessness to the water hitting pavement
surrounding me with tears
so desperately needed
this time of year is magic
the smell of fallen leaves
the warm defeat of autumn
rises up to my nose while the clear green scent of aspen crawls out of tree tops
spring and fall in tension
birth and death
all at once
I can only melt further into the rainfall
ride through puddles all orange sulphur in the city moonlight
hope that the dreams
knitting themselves somewhere on the edge of my consciousness
somewhere out there where the fox and the coyote dance light-footed across grassland
will take root
in this liquid escape
the world is closer
on these waterlogged nights‘ — April 2010