"But I thought it was spring”
On our brief walk to his school, my seven year old mouths these words to me. I can hardly make them out as he’s layered beneath shirt, sweater, scarf and fully zipped up parka.
His tuque is pulled down past his eyebrows, so that only a thin line of upper nose, cheek and eyes are exposed to the elements.
“All the snow was melting,” he continues. “I thought it was the end of winter.”
It doesn’t feel like the end of winter as we brace ourselves against the gust of frigid air blowing hard against us. I’ve left us just enough time for our walk to school, with few minutes to spare.
I don’t want to subject my son to extra time freezing outside on the playground before that first bell mercifully beacons the children inside. But it also means I have to keep us moving.
“Come on,” I reply, a sly smile spreading across my lips. “Let me tell you about February.”
My son doesn’t know about February. About how it’s a trickster.
For as long as I’ve lived here, February has tried to trick me. While only the second month of the calendar year, February is first month where I begin to notice the days growing longer.
The shortest, darkest days of winter are begin to leave us. And so our mind turns to spring. Maybe we experience a day or two of unusually temperate weather. This is a faint, but we are emboldened. We might brave a walk to the mailbox without a tuque or gloves.
The most hopeful (or foolhardy) among us may have even begun to move our heaviest winter items to the back or the closet in favour of lighter spring jackets.
“Spring is around the corner,” we tell ourselves. “I can feel it.”
Then, it comes. Winter gets its second wind, and it’s a cold one. A new dump of snow when you thought you were finished shovelling. Gusts of frigid air that blow through you, regardless of how many layers you have on.
This year it was a polar vortex, but a quick search of highs and lows from February 2020, or 2019, or 2018 all tell a similar story. Spring may be around the corner, but we never turn that corner in February.
Maybe it’s not February that is tricking us. Maybe we are the ones tricking ourselves.
Hope springs eternal, and hope for spring, annual. It doesn’t take much after a long, cold, dark winter to get us excited for the coming season. We anticipate the smells of spring, look forward to seeing the new buds emerging from the trees.
Spring means new, and by each and every February, we are ready it, salivating at the prospect of it.
We long for spring. Perhaps that is why we are so easily fooled, year after year. Maybe that is why we don’t know better, even after so many Februarys.
Each year, we continue to look ahead, continue to eagerly anticipate winter’s retreat into spring. And each year we are left waiting, huddled against the cold, impatient and disillusioned, for a little while longer.
Impatient and disillusioned describes a lot of us these days, myself included. We are ready for the new. We are waiting on spring and warmer days, but we are also waiting on our world to return to some sense of normal.
- On restrictions to lessen
- To gather friends around tables
- On traveling to locations beyond our workplaces and grocery stores
- To embrace those loved ones who don’t live under our same roof.
We are waiting, impatiently.
Certainly, we’ve been patient for a long, long time. We have been watching numbers and adjusting our lives for nearly a year now. Kept strangers and loved ones alike at a distance.
Our first batch of cloth masks are beginning to wear thin, and now we’re facing the prospect of replacing them anew. My friend lamented the other day that his eight-year-old daughter, who was born in March, was protesting the prospect of a second COVID birthday without friends around.
We have been patient. And now? Our patience has run thin. Now we are mostly tired.
This moment feels like the long, slow wait for spring.
Just as we are fooled into believing that the first temperate week in February marks the end of winter, we have been fooling ourselves into believing that the next health order, or the next vaccine, or the next downturn in cases will return the world we have been missing for over a year.
Then we are faced with a cold snap. Then, the new threat of highly spreadable variants that our current vaccines may not adequately protect against.
Then, restrictions are held, or heightened, when we had hoped they would be lessened or eliminated. To each, we feel frustrated and betrayed.
It is our hope and anticipation that trick us. It is our longing for spring that tells us that this February will be warmer than those past. It is our longing for our pre-COVID world that suggests that we can travel, embrace our friends and return to normal.
But none of these hopes or desires are true, yet.
We keep wanting the season to change, and we become frustrated when all that passes are the days. But all seasons are made up of days.
Each passing, freezing day in February brings us closer to spring, even if we cannot see it. Likewise, we can see signs of our way forward, see some of the progress around us. Vaccine technologies which had only been dreamed about and theorized for years are now injecting into deltoid muscles.
New vaccines (including those that are effective against new variants) continue to be developed and considered for widespread use. Outbreaks in care homes are decreasing in both severity and number.
Each of these events is worth being grateful for. Each of these, a step closer to the world we anticipate and long for.
But right now, it’s still February. It’s still winter. Spring is closer, but it is still a ways off.
So bundle up. Keep that spring jacket in the back of the closet for now. Those mitts and toques are not going anywhere this month.
The thaw, and green shoots, the adventures travelling, friends around table and loved ones held near are all yet to come.
Just not yet.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.