Ah, springtime on the prairies, that quixotic tumble of one day freezing one’s face off and the next day ripping open your jacket when steam starts rising from it.
Where I am from in Alberta, at the time of writing it is –28 degrees Celsius with a wind chill factor of -40. It is so cold, mice are playing hockey in the toilet bowl. For prairie folks it is difficult to believe that equinox happens in March, marking the beginning of spring.
Spring on the prairies isn’t very springlike, so it led me to investigate how someone figured that March 19 or March 20 or March 21 should mark the beginning of it. Now here is an interesting little tidbit that I dug up in my research: Australians and New Zealanders don’t recognize the equinox as the beginning of spring, but instead they mark the first day of March, June, September and December as the start of the four seasons. The reason for this difference is simply ease of record-keeping. Instead of basing the first day of spring on astronomy and having it be different in different years, thus confusing people, they based it on practicality.
Regardless of when spring officially starts in the Northern Hemisphere, March in Alberta is more like “winter lite” than any fanciful notion of spring. That welcoming version of spring comes to Alberta in, oh, maybe early June and lasts the month. Summer is July and August, autumn is September and winter is October through May.
Such was our family’s desperation for the springtime that their aunties in Vancouver and England were bragging about, that I sometimes drew tulips in the snow to cheer the kids up and told them to use their imagination. Sometimes in March I would take the kids out on little trips around the garden and point out with forced enthusiasm, “Look! There’s a little puddle where the snow melted!” The next day that was where one of them would fly through the air and land with a crash on the ice that had formed overnight.
When spring finally did seem to arrive, it brought with it all the fluff from the poplar trees that caused the kids’ noses to run more than they usually did. “Sneezin’s Greetings” marks the beginning of our spring.
The thing about spring on the prairie is that it is so subtle that a person hardly knows it is happening at all, and then it’s summer. The same can probably be said for the Cayman Islands, but since I’m here and not in Alberta, it’s easy to tell which one I prefer.
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”